Hearsay evidence inadmissible in disciplinary hearing
18 July 2011
In Bonhoeffer v General Medical Council, the Administrative Court has held, on a judicial review, that hearsay evidence should not have been admitted in a disciplinary hearing.
A consultant paediatric cardiologist was accused of abusing boys. A criminal case was not pursued since only one alleged victim supported the accusations in an interview with the police.
During the disciplinary hearing, the General Medical Council`s Fitness to Practice Panel, decided to admit the transcript of the interview in as evidence. This was despite the fact that it was hearsay. Hearsay evidence is a written or oral statement made otherwise than by a witness giving his own first-hand evidence in proceedings.
The General Medical Council argued that this was fair owing to the serious nature of the allegations, together with the public interest to investigate.
The Court considered this to be misconceived. It concluded that case law on Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights shows the more serious the allegation, the greater the importance of ensuring the accused is given fair and proper procedural safeguards. A wrong result is not in the public interest. Further, there was nothing to show that the panel had considered whether the evidence met the test required in Civil proceedings, as applied here.
Accordingly, the decision to admit the evidence was quashed by the Court.
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