Defence organisation writes to the GDC following high court ruling

12 January 2024

MDDUS has written to the General Dental Council (GDC) urging it to reconsider its response to a High Court ruling. It warns that a double jeopardy aspect of professional conduct sanctions is wrong and unfair.

The High Court ruling came after MDDUS appealed on behalf of one of its members against a decision by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) of the GDC.

The dentist being defended was potentially facing a suspension from practice that would be four-and-a-half months longer than the time initially imposed and longer than the 12-month legal maximum.

The judge undertook a detailed analysis of GDC legislation to decide if their interpretation of the statute meant that the ‘time served’ principle did not apply to an immediate suspension order.

Justice Ritchie’s pivotal court ruling could mean that future registrants can be certain ‘time served’ while awaiting an appeal will be part of any final suspension order.

Justice Ritchie ruled the regulator’s interpretation, treating an immediate suspension order as separate from a substantive suspension order was, in effect, a punishment for appealing.

The GDC has responded by declaring its intention to apply for permission to appeal this ruling. It has advised its professional hearings panels to “continue to follow current guidance until the appeal is heard”.

In a letter to the GDC, MDDUS chief executive Chris Kenny warned that the regulator’s actions were potentially unlawful, “It is not open to the GDC to choose to set that judgement aside, unless and until the Appeal Court determines that a mistake in law has been made. Until then, panels must be bound by the current judgement.”

Rachael Bell, interim head of dental at MDDUS, said, “The GDC has effectively said its panels should operate like it’s business as usual. That shows a shocking and unusual lack of respect for a High Court judgement.

“In our view, until its appeal is heard, the GDC must comply with the standards they set their own registrants and respect the rule of law as it currently stands.

“Whilst we fully appreciate the need to protect the public, regulation must reflect the current state of the law, and no regulator is above that fundamental tenet.”

A GDC spokesperson said, “We welcome challenge and feedback from stakeholders and listen to their concerns. In this case, we identified that the information circulated to independent committees in the Dental Professionals Hearings Service should incorporate the wider legal consideration around this issue. We have amended our previous statement to clarify this and to express more clearly the decision-making role of committees.”