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Baby P doctor hearing adjourned over 'rights breach'

4 March 10 21:10 GMT

A doctor who allegedly failed to spot 17-month-old Baby Peter's injuries will be given time to decide if she is "able" to face a disciplinary hearing.

Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat saw Peter Connelly at St Ann's Hospital in Haringey two days before his death in August 2007.

The General Medical Council, which has heard the case in her absence after she felt "suicidal", said continuing the hearing could breach her human rights.

She has not instructed her lawyers since leaving the UK in February.

The paediatrician, who has been suspended, allegedly failed to carry out an "adequate examination" to investigate his injuries or admit him to hospital.

She left the UK before the General Medical Council's (GMC) fitness to practise panel began the disciplinary hearing on 22 February, after she suffered an "acute episode of illness" and feeling "suicidal".

'Extreme pressures'

The panel ruled that continuing the hearing in her absence could go against Dr Al-Zayyat's rights to a fair trial, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

GMC counsel Rebecca Poulet QC said Dr Al-Zayyat should be given more time to contact her legal team and to "clarify whether she is able and willing to participate" in the hearing.

The tribunal said that the doctor made a "rational" decision to leave the UK to "avoid the extreme pressures associated with the hearing" and noted that she had intended to attend the hearing.

The panel also mentioned the possibility of the doctor giving evidence by video link.

Peter's mother and two men have been jailed for their part in his death.

Baby Peter, who was already in the local child protection register and received 60 visits from authorities, died at his home in Edmonton, north London, from multiple injuries.

During the two men's trial, the prosecution said that when Dr Al-Zayyat, a locum consultant community paediatrician, saw him it was likely the toddler had already suffered significant injuries, including a broken back and ribs.

She missed his injuries after deciding she could not carry out a full check-up because the little boy was "cranky", the court heard.

The doctor denied that Peter could have had a broken back when she saw him.

The GMC hearing was adjourned until a later date.

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