Erasure is not automatic but it is the exception rather than the norm in the more serious cases.

At one end of the scale are those serious cases where erasure will be all but irresistible.  Such cases will be those where the victim is a member of a vulnerable group and the abuse of position and trust so fundamental that continued registration as a doctor is at odds with the fundamental tenants of the profession.  Two relatively recent examples involved convictions where a doctor had covertly set up filming equipment in toilets and in another case a doctor was caught inappropriately speaking online with someone he believed to be a 13 year old.  Where a sexual offence has been committed it frequently follows that the person is added to the Sexual Offender Register which is an anathema to being registered as a doctor.

There are though some cases that sit on the borderline and where a doctor may avoid erasure.  One such case concerned Dr K who was a 27 year old medical student and was convicted of possessing extreme pornographic images (bestiality) and possession of a category A photograph of a child (aged 9).  He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to a 12 month Community Order and required to register with the police.

The facts were that Dr K had joined a local rugby group and a local gym, upon membership of each he also joined their respective WhatsApp groups.  The WhatsApp groups were variously described in the judgement as ‘lads banter, crude humour, toxic masculinity, one upmanship and shock value’.  Dr K admitted that he had found the images in question amusing at first but later realised they were filthy and abhorrent.  Dr K had not realised that the images were downloaded onto his phone, they had been sent to him and downloaded in an unsolicited manner.  Dr K had been active in both of the groups participating in the course humour.

At the MPT Dr K explained that he had joined the groups as an escape from the pressures he was facing as a doctor.  He was isolated from his friends, he was undergoing exams and he did not feel he could speak with his family who had pressured him regarding his career.  Dr K was also able to prove remorse and insight.  He had quickly admitted his mistakes, left the area, left the WhatsApp Group and joined other relevant supportive groups.  It appears his Foundation Year Trainer had immensely supported him at work and he avoided dismissal.  Dr K was well liked and highly respected.  The Probation Service had reported that there was a low-medium risk of offending and sexual rehabilitation was unnecessary.

Impaired fitness to practice having been established the MPT moved to consider sanction.  It noted that the Sanctions Guidance indicated that cases involving child abuse materials were likely to result in erasure. However it felt able to distinguish Dr K’s case and amongst the factors was that the criminal court had not imposed a sexual offences rehabilitation order.  The GMC had sought erasure but the MPT determined a 12 month suspension was sufficient sanction to protect the public interest and there should be a review hearing to consider return to practice.  At the review hearing the following year the MPT agreed that the suspension should expire and Dr K should return to unrestricted practice.

This is one of those cases involving settings on WhatsApp where any information sent to a phone is automatically downloaded resulting in conviction for possession, perhaps the most widely known being that of Supt Robyn Williams of the Met Police whose sister sent her an unsolicited video on the premise she wanted a paedophile caught.   Whilst the child in question was not Dr K’s patient the MPT was concerned that he had not reported the video to the authorities or taken any further action.  Interestingly the MPT was also concerned animal welfare had not been considered by Dr K when it should have been.  It seems evident that Dr K had very competent representation, his counsel addressed each and every point he reasonably could so sparing erasure which would likely mean the end of Dr K’s medical career given his limited years in practice.  You will appreciate that each case turns on its own facts and if you require confidential assistance regarding any fitness to practice matter that may concern you please contact us directly for advice on your circumstances.