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18 May 2012
Court of Appeal
Stanley Burnton LJ
Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal. In some cases, to ensure ‘equality of arms', this may require legal representation to be available. It applies to criminal proceedings and proceedings to determine civil rights.
Previous cases have established that Art 6 does not normally apply to disciplinary proceedings, but that it may do if those proceedings could affect a person's right to carry on their profession. If it applies, then Art 6 requires there to be a public hearing by an independent panel. In this case, the Court of Appeal holds that Article 6 is not engaged if an adverse outcome of the hearing merely makes it extremely difficult to get other employment within the profession.
Dr M complained that disciplinary proceedings following his alleged failure to follow instructions did not comply with Art 6. He complained that the panel was not independent and impartial.
The Court of Appeal held that Art 6 only applies if the hearing actually determines, or is likely to have a major influence on other proceedings which will determine, the right to carry on a profession. It referred, as an example, to R(G), where disciplinary proceedings against a teaching assistant accused of an inappropriate relationship with a boy would have had a major influence on the Independent Safeguarding Authority and would almost certainly had led to his disqualification from ever again acting in that capacity.
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