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Last Updated: Friday, 8 October, 2004, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Southall penalty 'to be reviewed'
Professor David Southall
Professor Southall denied serious professional misconduct
The High Court is to review the punishment given to paediatrician David Southall over concerns it may have been too lenient, the BBC has learnt.

Professor Southall was found guilty of professional misconduct after wrongly accusing solicitor Sally Clark's husband of murdering their children.

In August, the General Medical Council barred Professor Southall from working in child protection for three years.

The Clark family had called for the doctor to be struck off.

At the August hearing, Denis McDevitt, chairman of the GMC's professional conduct committee, told Professor Southall his conduct had amounted to "a serious departure from the standards expected from a registered medical practitioner".

The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence concluded that it should exercise its power to refer the General Medical Council's decision in the case of Professor Southall
Sandy Forrest, CHRE
He added: "The committee are concerned that at no time during these proceedings have you seen fit to withdraw these allegations or to offer any apology."

Sandy Forrest, director of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE), the body which oversees the work of professional regulatory bodies, said: "I can confirm that following a case meeting of Council members, the CHRE has referred the decision of the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) of the General Medical Council in relation to the Professor Southall case to the High Court.

The CHRE has the power to refer fitness to practise decisions made by a regulator to the High Court if it considers that the decision was "unduly lenient" and it is desirable to do so for public protection.

Ms Forrest added: "CHRE concluded that it should exercise its power to refer the General Medical Council's PCC's decision in the case of Professor Southall."

Clark babies

Sally Clark was convicted in 1999 of murdering her two sons Christopher and Harry.

But that conviction was quashed when new medical evidence showing the babies died of natural causes was accepted at a second appeal hearing in January 2003.

The GMC hearing centred around conclusions Professor Southall drew after seeing an interview with Mr Clark on Channel 4's Dispatches programme broadcast in April 2000.

In his interview, Mr Clark described how the couple's first baby Christopher had suffered a nosebleed just 10 days before he died in December 1996.

Professor Southall told police he believed Mr Clark had killed the children after watching the interview, but without seeing any documents relating to the case or interviewing the family.

He later outlined his concerns in a report. It was submitted to the family court, which was considering who should take care of the Clark's third child.

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