Findings of fact by another regulator can be used in the disciplinary proceedings of another.

 

If a professional is registered with two or more professional bodies, would either professional body be permitted to use the finding of the other in disciplinary proceedings? This was the situation in the case of NMC v Benyu (Case No. 11225-2014). Ms Benyu was both a practising solicitor and nurse. She was struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for mishandling client funds, upon which, following the decision of the SDT, Ms Benyu was referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The NMC accepted the decision of the SDT as a finding of fact. They decided that the conduct found by the SDT amounted to misconduct within their practise rules, and that the registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired.

The case raised an important question for disciplinary panels that has for sometime been unanswered, that being;

a. could one disciplinary panel use the findings of another or
b. did the disciplinary panel have to have a rehearing to consider the evidence separately?

The recent decision in Peckitt v GDC [2016] EWHC 1803 (Admin) gives some guidance on when the panel of one body can rely on the findings another body as to findings of fact.

Professor Peckitt was a surgeon regulated both by the General Medical Council (GMC) and the General Dental Council (GDC). He was charged by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MTPS) (the adjudication service for UK doctors) on the grounds of misconduct. The MTPS found the charge proved and erased him from the register of the GMC. During the investigation, Professor Peckitt made a number of false statements against the GDC. The GDC later investigated those statements as potential dishonest conduct. The GDC charges were based on;

1. the original findings of the MTPS and its decision to erase him (upon which the GDC relied upon the factual finding of the MTPS).
2. the question of dishonesty arising from the statements that had been made about the GDC.

The GDC ruled against Professor Peckitt and he was also erased from the GDC register.

Professor Peckitt appealed on the ground that the GDC should not have accepted as fact the findings of the MPTS, and that by doing so, the process was flawed and unfair. This argument was rejected on the reasoning that, other than in exceptional circumstances, it is not right that a secondary disciplinary panel should have to revisit the factual territory of the first. Unless the first decision is ‘so manifestly flawed’ that it would be unfair for the second body to bind itself to those facts.

One key area to consider may be the common or shared values of the two professions. Integrity and honesty are key parts of all professions, and findings against these by one panel will doubtless be treated harshly by another regulatory body.

This case is helpful as it gives guidance on whether the SDT can use the findings of another professional regulator when bringing proceedings against a duel regulated individual. The ability to use the results of another professional regulator may be a great help in quickly establishing facts in a case and speeding up the process.

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