Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 10:19 UK

Southall loses bid to end GMC ban

David Southall
David Southall has had a controversial career

Paediatrician David Southall has lost his bid to have the decision to strike him off the medical register overturned by the High Court in London.

The General Medical Council (GMC) struck off Dr Southall in 2007 after he accused a Shropshire mother of drugging and murdering her 10-year-old son.

It had ruled he was guilty of serious professional misconduct.

It has previously rebuked him over the case of Sally Clark, who was wrongly jailed for the deaths of her two sons.

He was speculating on non-medical matters in an offensive manner entirely inconsistent with the status of an independent expert
Mr Justice Blake

In 2007, the GMC panel said Dr Southall had a "deep-seated attitudinal problem".

It found that his actions had added to the distress of the mother - Mrs M - following the death of her son, who hanged himself in 1996.

Dr Southall made the claim in an interview with Mrs M about the safety of her surviving son.

He had been instructed by a county council to provide an independent expert report to the court.

'Lack of insight'

During his High Court case, lawyers for Dr Southall had argued that the GMC panel had failed to give "any or adequate weight" to inconsistencies in Mrs M's evidence, and that they did not understand what child protection work involved.

But in his judgement, Mr Justice Blake, ruled the decision to strike the paediatrician off was justified.

The judge added: "He was speculating on non-medical matters in an offensive manner entirely inconsistent with the status of an independent expert."

I am very disappointed by today's judgment
Dr David Southall

And he said public confidence in child protection expertise would be undermined if "behaviour of the kind under consideration here, when combined with the lack of insight into, or acknowledgement of, its nature and extent, was considered to be compatible with continued registration as a medical practitioner".

In a statement Dr Southall said: "I am very disappointed by today's judgment.

"I have had tremendous support throughout this difficult period from my family, dear friends and legal team and I would like to thank them all.

I have no further comment to make at this stage."

A spokesman for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said Dr Southall was a "highly respected paediatrician and academic with an excellent record of published peer reviewed work".

And the organisation Professionals Against Child Abuse (PACA) said it was "saddened" by the judgement and warned it could have "further serious and negative effects " on the willingness of doctors to engage in child protection work.

Paul Philip, deputy chief executive of the GMC welcomed the ruling.

He said: "The vast majority of doctors in this country do an excellent job often in difficult circumstances. This includes paediatricians engaged in essential child protection work.

"Like other doctors, they need the confidence and support of the public.

"But where our standards have not been met, we must - and will - act to protect patients and the public interest."

Previous controversy

In 2004, Dr Southall was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and suspended from child protection work over his role in the case of Sally Clark, wrongly jailed over the death of her two sons.

Dr Southall accused Mrs Clark's husband Steve of murdering the two boys on the basis of a television interview.

At the time he was banned from child protection work for three years, a ban which ran out last year.

Dr Southall is viewed as an expert in Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, a condition which means parents deliberately induce or fabricate illnesses in their children to get attention for themselves.

He pioneered the use of covert video surveillance in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which led to a number of parents and step parents being prosecuted for abuse.

Dr Southall faced another GMC hearing into work that he carried out in the early 1990s, testing a new type of ventilator for premature babies. Accusations that he failed to gain proper consent for the work were dismissed.

Dr Southall worked as a consultant paediatrician at London's Royal Brompton Hospital from 1982 before moving to the same post at the North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent in 1992.

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