Confirming Professional Disciplinary Sanctions: The High Court's Jurisdiction

Author:Mr Niall Michel
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran
 
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Two recent High Court judgments have clarified the Court's jurisdiction when asked to confirm a sanction handed down by a professional regulatory body following a fitness to practise inquiry. We look at the judgments.

Background

In two recent professional disciplinary decisions, The Medical Council v M.A.G.A and The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland v O.C.M., the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Kelly, clarified the role of the High Court when dealing with applications to the High Court to confirm sanctions made by the Medical Council ("the Council") or the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland ("NMBI").

In both cases, the respective regulatory bodies' Fitness to Practise Committees had made findings of professional misconduct against a doctor and a nurse in relation to allegations involving dishonesty and fraudulent behaviour. The Boards of the Council and NMBI had decided to impose the sanction of "censure", or strong criticism, on each registrant and to attach conditions to their registration.

On hearing both applications at first instance, President Kelly expressed concern as to the appropriateness of the sanctions and questioned whether a censure and conditions on registration were sufficient in light of the dishonest conduct of both registrants. Ultimately, both matters were adjourned for the Council and NMBI to make further representations and submissions to the President.

The meaning of "a good reason not to"

Under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 and the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011 (the "Acts"), the Council and NMBI are required to apply to the High Court to seek confirmation of a disciplinary sanction imposed if the registrant has not appealed the sanction and the sanction is serious enough. The Acts provide that the High Court shall grant such applications unless the Court "sees a good reason not to".

In the M.A.G.A. and O.C.M. cases, President Kelly reviewed the meaning of the expression "a good reason not to" and concluded that, in light of the statutory schemes in place, the Court's jurisdiction in deciding whether to confirm a...

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