About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Southall struck off

The GMC has decided that Professor Southall is guilty of serious misconduct and struck him off the medical register. This story is widely covered including by Sky News , the Guardian , & the Times to name but a few.

After the verdict, Jacqueline Mitton, the chairwoman of the panel, told him: “Your multiple failings over an extended period caused the panel great concern. . . . in all the circumstances the panel has concluded that you have deep-seated attitudinal problems and that your misconduct is so serious that it is fundamentally incompatible with your continuing to be a registered medical practitioner."

Patricia Hamilton, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health, has said that the college is saddened & disappointed by the verdict. Health care professionals have a duty to act if they fear that parents have harmed their children and she expressed concern that the verdict may put paediatricians & social workers off performing child protection roles.

I do not understand this reaction. When one analyses the misconduct found against Professor Southall (by an independent tribunal before which he was more than competently represented, not only in this round but previously in 2004), it is difficult to see how this could be characterised as a health care professional acting on legitimate concerns in a properly professional manner. He has now twice accused a parent of murder without any proper evidential foundation and kept secret files on children containing materials which were then not available to their treating doctors. He previously accused Sally Clark's husband of murder, based on a tv interview alone and when he was prohibited from conducting child protection work. He did not at the current hearing or previously and has not in any interview expressed any remorse or regret about his working methods. Approaching a case with respectful uncertainty, as recommended by the Climbie enquiry, does not mean leaping forward and making accusations of ill-treatment, simply that one keeps an open mind and examines all possibilities. Professor Southall was rebuked by Mr Justice Collins for not having the sense or humility to withdraw his seriously flawed allegations and he just does not seem to be listening to anyone.

Numerous doctors and professionals are the subject of disciplinary tribunals and many have had an otherwise impeccable track record before their fall from grace. By all means, let us acknowledge the previous good track record, where it exists, but it cannot be right to pretend that this makes up for a serious professional misdemeanour, particularly when it strikes at the very heart of the professional role. There is no reason why Southall's disciplinary fate before his profession's panel should put off competent professionals from doing their job in child protection, even if, try as hard as they might, they make the odd mistake from time to time. Experts often say in care proceedings that they are unable to work with parents who will not acknowledge any wrongdoing. It is this failure to acknowledge any failure that has been Southall's undoing.

1 comment:

Marilyn Stowe said...

My experience with the prosecution of Sally Clark, and from time to time in my own field of family law, has led me to the conclusion that the danger of an “expert” is that he believes he is infallible.

I believe this arises out of inexcusable arrogance and has resulted in many grave miscarriages of justice and needless suffering for innocent people - in some cases irreparably so.

Marilyn Stowe