The High Court has dismissed an appeal by a doctor suspended for 12 months, accused of inappropriate touching.

In Sankaye v The General Medical Council [2023] EWHC 1213, the doctor treated a receptionist at the same workplace for a back pain complaint.  The judgement recorded that:

She [another radiographer, Parabjot Bamrah] has said that that evening, she was preparing to close the centre and therefore went upstairs to see if the appellant had finished scanning the complainant. She put her head around the door of the treatment room and asked if they had finished and was told that they had. She then went to the reporting room down the corridor to wait for them. They emerged. Ms Bamrah and the appellant had a short conversation about the anticipated MRI scan. The appellant asked Ms Bamrah which way she would be going home. This was not unusual as they sometimes walked to the station together. As they descended the stairs, the appellant said that he had forgotten his coat and went back for it. Downstairs in Reception, the complainant asked if she could speak to Ms Bamrah, who took her into another room. Ms Bamrah could not remember her exact words but recalled that the complainant told her that the appellant had touched her inappropriately.

The judgement went on to explain that

In due course, the GMC proceeded with a number of allegations of misconduct arising out of these events. As is apparent from the appellant’s investigation statement, many points of fact were common ground. He admitted a failure on his part to communicate adequately with the complainant before and during the examination and scan. The only significant areas of factual dispute were as to whether he touched the front of her body and her breast, whether any acts were done without her consent and whether any actions were sexually motivated.

The MPTS concluded “that there was not a clinical explanation for a physical examination of the front of Patient A’s Body or her breast in a spinal examination” and consequently concluded that “the Allegation proved”.  It imposed a suspension from practice for 12 months.

Appeal

The doctor puts forward the following grounds:

i. The tribunal gave no or no adequate reasons for concluding that the complainant was not mistaken and for not accepting the appellant’s evidence.

ii. The tribunal wrongly attached weight to the early making and consistent nature of the complainant’s complaint, in a case where the issue was not her truthfulness but whether she was mistaken.

iii. The tribunal wrongly put the burden on the appellant to satisfy it that the complainant was mistaken.

iv. The tribunal wrongly concluded that the appellant “was unable to offer an alternative explanation” for her belief, when he had done so.

v. The tribunal did not adequately consider the expert evidence as to the difficulty of the manoeuvre of inserting a hand beneath the chest of a prone patient.

vi. The tribunal failed to identify the evidence that persuaded it that sexually motivated touching had taken place.

Mr Justice Bourne, in dismissing the appeal, said:

“The tribunal may not entirely have appreciated that the early making and consistent nature of the complaint were more relevant to honesty than to the issue of mistake. However, even if honesty was not challenged, it was still a matter about which the tribunal was required to be satisfied, and that may explain the references to these points. But even if the importance of those points was overstated, I do not consider that to be capable of undermining the tribunal’s acceptance that, rather than making a bizarre sequence of mistakes, the complainant had experienced what she claimed to have experienced.”

 

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