Pope v General Dental Council [2015] EWHC 278 (Admin)

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The appellant dentist provided services under a contract with a Primary Care Trust, and was entitled to be paid in accordance with the terms and conditions of that contract. The respondent General Dental Council gave the appellant notice that a hearing of its Professional Conduct Committee (the PCC) was to be held to adjudicate on a broad range of allegations of misconduct, including that he had repeatedly made dishonest claims for remuneration to which he well knew he was not entitled under his contract.

The PCC found that twenty of thirty-one allegations of dishonesty had been made out and imposed the sanction of erasure from the register. The appellant appealed against the findings of dishonesty.

The appellant's contentions included that; in regard to the balance of probabilities (civil standard of proof), the PCC had started from a "neutral position" and with the evidential scales evenly balanced this had substantially lightened the burden of proof, effectively rendering it weightless.

The appeal would be dismissed.

The burden of proof and the standard of proof comprised the criteria which were to be applied to all of the evidence after it was complete in order to determine how any given issue was to be resolved. As such, the burden of proof had no weight in the context of a contested issue as a piece of evidence in itself. To say that the burden remained on one party throughout was merely to make the point that, however imbalanced the scales might appear to be at any given stage in the proceedings, the test to be applied remained unchanged throughout (see [25] of the judgment).

The criticism of the PCC's approach was conceptually flawed and had to fail. Nor could the PCC be said to have erred in its approach to the burden of proof to the extent that its findings of dishonesty were thereby vitiated (see [28] of the judgment).

Cases considered Sharma v General Medical Council [2014] EWHC 1471 (Admin) and Woolmington v DPP [1935] AC 462.

Case Summary reproduced with the kind permission of LexisNexis.

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