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Hearsay evidence

23 June 2011

A paediatric cardiologist facing allegations of sexual abuse has been successful in stopping the General Medical Council using hearsay evidence in disciplinary proceedings. The allegations relate to when he worked in Kenya. A key witness lived in Kenya, and while he was willing to travel to the disciplinary hearings, the GMC decided that the risk to the individual flowing from public exposure in homosexual activity outweighed the benefit of his personal attendance.

The High Court felt this decision was irrational. The stakes could not be higher for the cardiologist, both personally and professionally, and it was essential that he was given the opportunity to cross-examine the witness.

This decision is likely to be very influential in future disciplinary proceedings. It shows that in cases where sexual abuse is alleged, it is very important to allow the alleged perpetrator to challenge the allegations. While disciplinary proceedings tend not to have the formality or consequences of court action, nevertheless similar procedural safeguards must apply.

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