Heart doctor wins abuse-case ruling
An internationally-renowned heart specialist has won his High Court battle to prevent hearsay evidence being used against him in disciplinary proceedings linked to child abuse allegations.
Philipp Bonhoeffer, who worked in London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, is accused of sexually abusing children in Kenya - allegations he strongly denies.
The General Medical Council referred his case to a fitness to practise panel disciplinary hearing.
The panel decided to consider hearsay evidence from a Kenyan man now in his late 20s, referred to as "Witness A", who alleges he was sexually abused by Professor Bonhoeffer when he was in his early teens.
On Tuesday, Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Stadlen quashed the panel's decision to admit the hearsay evidence. Disciplinary proceedings were halted last November pending the outcome of the legal challenge.
The judges declared the panel's conclusion that it was fair to admit the hearsay evidence "irrational". In a written ruling, they also said it breached Prof Bonhoeffer's right under the European Convention on Human Rights to a fair hearing. The case raised important issues generally relating to the circumstances in which hearsay evidence may be admitted in disciplinary cases.
During the recent hearing of the case, Kieran Coonan QC, representing Prof Bonhoeffer, who lives in Camden, north London, said the panel's decision threatened to violate the rights of "one of the world's leading paediatric cardiologists".
If hearsay evidence was called there would be no opportunity to cross-examine Witness A - the "single source" of evidence for the majority of the charges, said Mr Coonan.
Other individuals Witness A alleged were also victims had refused to support his claims. Mark Warby QC, for the General Medical Council, which had applied for the evidence to be admitted, argued that Prof Bonhoeffer's rights to a fair hearing would not be violated because sufficient safeguards would be in place if it was was admitted.
After the ruling, GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: "The High Court has ruled that the GMC cannot admit hearsay evidence in this case. We will need to study the judgment carefully, but it is important to note that the judicial review was on a narrow point of law about the admissibility of some of the evidence."