FFW leads GMC fight over expert witness immunity

Field Fisher Waterhouse was in the Court of Appeal last week on behalf of the General Medical Council (GMC), fighting a ruling that protects expert witnesses from disciplinary action.

Partner Tom Rider was instructed by the GMC to bring the appeal against Mr Justice Collins’ February decision in a case brought by retired paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow. The GMC struck Meadow off for giving allegedly flawed evidence in the 1999 trial of solicitor Sally Clark, whose conviction was overturned in 2003.

Meadow appealed against the GMC’s finding of serious professional misconduct and also against his striking off. In February, Collins J ruled that the sanction was unnecessary and that the misconduct finding was wrong.

Collins J also said that expert witnesses should be immune from disciplinary action, instead giving judges the right to decide if an investigation is appropriate. It was this that prompted the GMC’s appeal.

GMC chief executive Finlay Scott said in a statement: “We do not believe that the solution lies in extending the principle of immunity, in a wholly novel way, thereby placing doctors and other professionals beyond the reach of their regulator. We do not accept that we should be prevented from acting in the public interest when we judge that to be necessary.”

Hempsons acted for Meadow, instructing 3 Serjeant’s Inn’s Nicola Davies QC.