One Crown Office Row silk defeats set-mate on GMC misconduct case

One Crown Office Row’s Stephen Miller QC has won an appeal against the General Medical Council for Professor John Walker-Smith, the doctor who carried out some of the tests that suggested a link between the MMR vaccination and autism.

Stephen Miller QC
Stephen Miller QC

Miller went head to head with One Crown Office Row’s Joanna Glynn QC, who was instructed for the General Medical Council.

The GMC struck off Walker-Smith in May 2010 after ruling he was guilty of serious professional misconduct. It was the longest medical disciplinary case in history, taking the panel 2,147 days to deliberate on the ruling.

The High Court said the decision was “flawed, in two respects: inadequate and superficial reasoning and, in a number of instances, a wrong conclusion”.

Ruling, Mr Justice  Mitting stated: “The panel had no alternative but to decide whether Professor Walker-Smith had told the truth to it and to his colleagues, contemporaneously. The GMC’s approach to the fundamental issues in the case led it to believe that that was not necessary – an error from which many of the subsequent weaknesses in the panel’s determination flowed.

“It had to decide what Professor Walker-Smith thought he was doing: if he believed he was undertaking research in the guise of clinical investigation and treatment, he deserved the finding that he had been guilty of serious professional misconduct and the sanction of erasure; if not, he did not, unless, perhaps, his actions fell outside the spectrum of that which would have been considered reasonable medical practice by an academic clinician.

“Its failure to address and decide that question is an error which goes to the root of its determination.”

Eastwoods partner Simon Eastwood instructed Miller for Walker-Smith. Field Fisher Waterhouse instructed Glynn for the GMC.