A registered dental practitioner may bring an appeal from certain decisions of the General Dental Council (GDC). Decisions of the interim orders panels and fitness to practise panels may be appealed in certain circumstances. Appeals must usually be brought within 28 days and a failure to lodge an appeal in that time will usually lead to the case being time-barred.
What is an appeal about?
In the appeal case of Ashraf v General Dental Council  EWHC 2618 (Admin) the high court judge summarised the role of an appeal judge when assessing a fitness to practise case on appeal (paras 3-4):-
3.The appeal proceeds by way of a re-hearing (CPR Part 52, PD 52D, 19.1(2)) so that it will be allowed where the decision of the lower tribunal was wrong or unjust because of a serious procedural or other irregularity in the proceedings (CPR 52.11). In that regard, the court has the power (a) to dismiss the appeal, (b) to allow the appeal and quash the decision appealed against, (c) to substitute for the decision appealed against any other decision which could have been made by the PCC or (d) remit the case to the PCC to dispose of the case in accordance with the directions of the court: see s. 29(3) of the 1984 Act.
4.It is unnecessary to revisit the authorities that identify the difference between a review and a rehearing. These are summarised in Bhatt v General Medical Council  EWHC 783 (Admin). at para 9 and adopted, with minor linguistic alteration) in Singh Wasu v General Dental Council  3782 (Admin). In short, although the court will correct errors of fact or approach:
(1) it will give appropriate weight to the fact that the Panel is a specialist tribunal, whose understanding of what the medical profession expects of its members in matters of medical practice deserves respect;
(2) [it will have regard to the fact] that the tribunal has had the advantage of hearing the evidence from live witnesses;
(3) the court should accordingly be slow to interfere with decisions on matters of fact taken by the first instance body;
(4) findings of primary fact of the first instance body, particularly if founded upon an assessment of the credibility of witnesses, are close to being unassailable, and must be shown with reasonable certainty to be wrong if they are to be departed from;
(5) but that where what is concerned is a matter of judgement and evaluation of evidence which relates to areas outside the immediate focus of interest and professional experience of the body, the Court will moderate the degree of deference it will be prepared to accord, and will be more willing to conclude that an error has, or may have been, made, such that a conclusion to which the Panel has come is or may be “wrong” or procedurally unfair.”
The above quotation is not an exhaustive list of appeal considerations but it is a useful rule of thumb.
In Williams v The General Dental Council (Rev1)  EWHC 1380 (Admin) the High Court determined that certain findings could not stand. Further, that the sanction of erasure was too harsh. Sanction replaced with nine month suspension. Good quality remediation and insight noted. Private elements of a FTP hearing can be kept private in the High Court judgment, subject to an application. (June 2022)
Read about other appeal case law decisions: GDC Appeal Case Digests
For legal advice and representation in relation to an appeal from a GDC decision, contact Dentists Legal Service via our Contact Form or by phone on 0370 977 0021
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