Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care v General Medical Council & Anor [2021] EWHC 588 (Admin) (12 March 2021)

PSA appeal of MPTS sanction in relation to Dr Hanson for misconduct in the form of unwanted, non-consensual, sexually motivated behaviour.

Professional Standards Authority (PSA) appeal of MPTS sanction in relation to Dr Hanson for misconduct in the form of unwanted, non-consensual, sexually motivated behaviour.

Background

The Tribunal of the General Medical Council (“MPTS”) at a substantive misconduct hearing on 29 September 2020 imposed a 10-month suspension with a review on Dr Christian Hanson, a specialist in emergency medicine.

The Tribunal found that, on 5 June 2018, while working at night, Dr Hanson had committed misconduct in the form of unwanted, non-consensual, sexually motivated behaviour towards a nurse, Ms A. The Tribunal determined that Dr Hanson’s fitness to practise was impaired.

PSA Appeal

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) appealed the MPTS decision on the basis that the MPTS failed to recognise the seriousness of Dr Hanson’s conduct and therefore failed to impose a sanction that provides sufficient protection of the public, maintains public confidence in the profession and maintains proper professional standards and conduct for members of the profession. It invited Mr Justice Chamberlain to allow the appeal and substitute for the 10-month suspension an order that Dr Hanson’s name be erased from the register.

The specific grounds were:

  • the Tribunal failed to have proper regard to the seriousness of the misconduct found proved (ground 1);
  • failed to provide any indication of the weight placed on any of the identified aggravating or mitigating factors (ground 2);
  • failed to provide any or any adequate reasons why erasure was not proportionate (ground 3);
  • failed to have proper regard to the Sanctions Guidance (grounds 4 and 5); and
  • was wrong to conclude that suspension was the appropriate sanction (ground 6).

Ruling

In relation to the six ground of appeal, Chamberlain J found the MPTS fell into error in five respects:

  1. First, although the Tribunal recognised that the misconduct found proven by the Tribunal was serious, it failed to recognise how serious.
  2. Second, this was a calculated and deliberate abuse of power which foreseeably caused real harm to a fellow healthcare professional.
  3. Third, the Tribunal placed reliance on two “mitigating factors”, but on analysis neither was properly to be regarded as such.
  4. Fourth, as the Sanctions Guidance makes clear, a key question so far as mitigation was concerned was the extent (if any) of Dr Hanson’s insight into what he had done. It is possible to demonstrate insight in a variety of ways, even where the conduct alleged is disputed. In this case, however, Dr Hanson’s complete lack of engagement with the Tribunal meant that there was nothing to demonstrate any insight or contrition at all.
  5. Fifth, in all the circumstances, the Tribunal should have concluded that Dr Hanson’s conduct engaged all of sub-paras 109(a)-(d) of the Sanctions Guidance and was fundamentally incompatible with continued registration. Suspension might potentially have been appropriate if there had been strong mitigation providing a basis for concluding that repetition was unlikely.

Reaching a conclusion, Chamberlain J commented:

“For these reasons, the appeal succeeds. In my judgment, on the material before the Tribunal, there was only one sanction that could properly be imposed: erasure. There is accordingly no point in remitting the question of sanction.”

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