The High Court agreed that a reprimand for a dentist guilty of causing death by careless driving was unduly lenient.
In Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care v General Dental Council & Anor  EWHC 243 (Admin), the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA) appealed a finding of the General Dental Council’s Professional Conduct Committee (“the Committee”).
In the case, a dentist was convicted of causing death by careless driving and was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment suspended for 2 years with 280 hours unpaid work. He was disqualified from driving for 3 years.
The dentist appeared before the Committee facing the following charges (summarised):
1. convicted of causing death by careless driving, contrary to section 2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
2. You failed to inform the General Dental Council immediately or at all before the date of conviction
3. The conduct in relation to 2. above was:
a. Misleading; and / or
The Committee found that the first two charges were proved following the dentist’s admissions meaning their fitness to practise was impaired by reason of both his misconduct and his conviction, on the grounds of public interest.
The Committee concluded that a reprimand was the most appropriate and proportionate sanction.
The PSA disagreed with the sanction. It brought the appeal on the grounds that it considered the sanction of a reprimand not being sufficient to maintain public confidence in the dental profession. The GDC shared that view and itself referred the Committee’s decision to the PSA.
Mr Justice Sweeting concluded that the sanction imposed was not sufficient to maintain public confidence and was “wrong”. He noted however that, in coming to this conclusion, a number of further matters then arose as to the consequences of allowing the appeal. These were:
i) First, whether “any other decision” means a sanction other than the one imposed by the Committee, so that the court would be precluded from imposing a reprimand.
ii) Secondly, whether substituting a decision which “could have been made” by the Committee precluded the court from taking into account matters which could not have been before the Committee such as the further elapse of time.
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