The General Dental Council said it intends to appeal the High Court ruling in Aga v GDC saying it represented a departure from the plain meaning of the legislation.

In the case, Mr Justice Ritchie ruled that the GDC’s interpretation of when an immediate suspension “takes effect” is wrong and, in this case, unfair to the Appellant, saying, in summary:

“If a dentist appeals and the appeal takes 4.5 months to be heard, as this one did, the GDC interpret the 9 month suspension direction which “takes effect” when the appeal is dismissed as the full 9 months without any deduction for the suspension already served. The Guidance omits to state this, but the Respondent submits that the direction to suspend will then run for its full term and there is no set off for the suspension already served under the immediate order. So, on the Respondent’s interpretation of the DA84, that means the total suspension will be increased from 9 months to 13.5 months (in this case) which is more than the 12 month maximum permitted by S.27B of the DA84.”

UK Fitness to Practise News

In response, the GDC wrote on its website:

“In a recent High Court judgment (Aga v GDC [2023] EWHC 3208 (Admin)), the judge dismissed the registrant’s appeal against a substantive suspension order but also allowed a new ground of appeal during the course of the hearing.

“We have considered the judgment and are intending to apply for permission to appeal. We have notified Practice Committees and other healthcare regulators of our intention to appeal. We have advised panels that they should continue to follow current guidance until the appeal is heard, because we are of the view that the interpretation of the statutory regime in the Aga v GDC judgment is incorrect. “

It went on to say:

“The GDC, in common with other healthcare regulators, considers immediate orders (s30 DA) as separate from substantive orders that result from a hearing (s27B DA), so that the section 30 order covers the period before the substantive order takes effect. 

“When an immediate order is imposed, we provide registrants and legal advisors with clear information about the effect of an immediate suspension order so that they can take an informed decision about whether to appeal.

“The recent ruling disagreed with the longstanding interpretation of the legislation. We firmly believe that this is a departure from the plain meaning of the legislation. We need clarity on this point so that the regulatory framework, guidance and practice are unequivocally clear.

“The only way to achieve clarification is through the Courts and this is what we are planning to do. We’ll provide a further update when there is more information to share. Until then, we have advised the Dental Professionals Hearings Service’s panels to approach immediate and substantive suspension orders as they have always done.”

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