(1) General Medical Council (2) Professional Standards Authority for Health & Social Care v Asef Zafar [2020] EWHC 846 

This article originally appeared in Issue 5 (May 2020).

The Divisional Court substituted a sanction of erasure for a 12 month suspension in this appeal by the GMC and PSA arising from the GMC’s own error. At a hearing before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (“MPT”) the GMC relied upon the fact that the doctor had been sentenced to prison for 6 months, suspended for 2 years, as a result of contempt of court in a case concerning the making of false statements as an expert witness. However that sentence had subsequently been found to be too lenient by the Court of Appeal, albeit that a declaration to that effect was deemed sufficient rather than actually increasing the sentence. The GMC agreed to withhold that fact from the MPT, for reasons that are unclear: “At first sight and indeed at second sight that seems extraordinary” [39]. The Divisional Court agreed that an inappropriate concession had been made by the GMC. Given the purpose of the proceedings were to protect the public, the Court of Appeal’s judgment could be admitted as fresh evidence on appeal and the PSA were not in any event bound by the GMC’s concession. There was no benefit in remitting the matter – on the facts of the case the only sanction was erasure, with or without the Court of Appeal’s judgment, given the findings of dishonesty and recklessness and the sanctions guidance available to the panel. Accordingly, the outcome in the regulatory proceedings reflected the fact that in the criminal proceedings the doctor had been afforded undue lenience for his wrongdoing.