Page last updated at 17:24 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 18:24 UK

Southall child ban ruling revoked

David Southall
David Southall is currently appealing against a separate GMC ban

The doctor who alleged the solicitor Sally Clark's husband murdered their two children is to be allowed to return to child protection work.

Dr David Southall, 60, was banned from such duties by the General Medical Council (GMC), which found him guilty of serious professional misconduct.

The GMC has now lifted the ban, which was imposed on the doctor in July 2004.

Dr Southall based his accusation on an interview Steve Clark gave. Mrs Clark was wrongly jailed for three years.

She died in 2007, four years after her release.

The paediatrician said his view of what had happened to the couple's two children was "beyond reasonable doubt".

Mr Clark said he did not want to comment on Sunday's ruling, by General Medical Council Fitness to Practise Panel.

'Considerable insight'

Andrew Reid, chairman of the panel, told Dr Southall: "You have acknowledged that you have learnt a lot from these proceedings and that it will impact on all the work you do.

"You have expressed regret for the impact that the PCC (Professional Conduct Committee) findings have had on the profession, and remorse that your actions have contributed to the fear that now exists amongst paediatricians involved in child protection work.

"The panel considers that you have demonstrated considerable insight into your previous failings."

Addressing the panel last month, Dr Southall maintained that he still thought he was correct to raise the alarm over Mr Clark after watching the interview given to Channel 4's Dispatches programme in April 2000.

I would like to thank my paediatric colleagues, especially those who came to give evidence on my behalf
Dr David Southall

However the paediatrician said he accepted the the language he used in the accusation was "injudicious".

Dr Southall believed Mr Clark tried to suffocate his eldest son, Christopher, in a London hotel room in 1996 following his description in the interview about how the child suffered a nosebleed and breathing difficulties.

He said he owed an apology to the late Mrs Clark for his assumption that if her husband had smothered Christopher he must also have killed their second son, Harry, who died 13 months later, but he maintained that the events in the hotel room had "not been explained by the passage of time".

Mrs Clark died of natural causes at the age of 42 at her home near Chelmsford, Essex, in March 2007.

Evidence discredited

Her family said she never fully recovered from the effects of the "appalling" miscarriage of justice which saw her convicted of murdering eight-week-old Harry and 11-week-old Christopher while she was living in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

Mrs Clark spent three years in jail before she was cleared by the Court of Appeal in January 2003 after evidence from another paediatrician, Sir Roy Meadow, was discredited.

Speaking after the hearing in Manchester, Dr Southall said: "I would like to say how pleased I am by the General Medical Council's decision today.

"I would like to thank my paediatric colleagues, especially those who came to give evidence on my behalf."

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said it "welcomed" the GMC's decision.

Research praised

A spokesman said: "There have been widely expressed concerns that GMC processes unfairly penalised doctors working in child protection.

"We hope that the lifting of the ban on Dr Southall will give all practitioners in this area some measure of reassurance."

Dr Southall was employed as a consultant paediatrician at North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent from 1992. He resigned as a locum in June.

He has been praised for his research into Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, in which adults induce or fabricate illnesses in their children, and for his studies into the cause of cot death.

The paediatrician is currently appealing against a separate GMC decision in which he was again found guilty of serious professional misconduct, for accusing a mother of drugging and murdering her 10-year-old son.

Dr Southall is allowed to carry on working as a doctor while his appeal continues.


SEE ALSO
GMC dismisses child doctor case
04 Jul 08 |  Health
Paediatrician in police probe
28 Nov 07 |  Health
Paediatrician 'abused position'
27 Nov 07 |  Health
Profile: Dr David Southall
04 Dec 07 |  Health

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