Professional Standards Authority v (1) General Chiropractic Council (2) Briggs (2014) [2014 EWHC 2190] (Admin)

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Proceedings were brought by the General Chiropractic Council against Mr Briggs, a Chiropractor. At a hearing before the Professional Conduct Committee, Mr Briggs was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by providing treatment to patients without having indemnity insurance and when registered as "non-practising". The Committee noted Mr Briggs' non-attendance at the hearing and that he had not shown any insight or remorse for his conduct. The Committee imposed a six month suspension order without any provision for a review at the end of that period. 

The Professional Standards Agency (PSA) appealed under s. 29 National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002. There were three grounds for appeal, (1) the Council had failed to bring charges of dishonesty against Mr Briggs in relation to representations made regarding his registration and insurance; (2) the sanction was unduly lenient given the Committee's comments on lack of remorse or insight; (3) the Committee's reasons for making its decision were inadequate.

The Court held that there was plainly evidence in support of additional allegations which arose out of the same episodes which formed the basis of the charges against Mr Briggs. The Council had therefore made an error in not referring these additional allegations, which included dishonesty, to the Committee. In addition, had a finding been made in respect of additional charges of dishonesty, it is likely that the sanction imposed on Mr Briggs would have been more severe.

As charges of dishonesty had not been considered by the Committee, the Court was unable to consider an appropriate sanction. The case was remitted to a fresh panel for rehearing.

In relation to the issue of whether or not the sanction was unduly lenient, the Court considered that under-charging by a regulatory body was a potential serious procedural or other irregularity which could result in an unduly lenient decision. Mr Briggs' actions in practising without insurance could have placed patients at risk and could justify removal from the register. Compounded by Mr Briggs' lack of insight, remorse or remediation, there remained a real risk of repetition. The Court commented that even without the additional allegations of dishonesty, the sanction was unduly lenient.