A NIGHTMARE ON HALLAM STREET
The GENERAL MEDICAL COUNCIL- an inside exposure of how it really goes about it's business on the "margins of the law".
An Introduction to the General Medical Council
Number 44 Hallam Street was the original office and "club" of the GMC, and the building in which the infamous show trials were held in the latter years, whilst patients and supporters marched outside in the street. I used the title "A Fantasy in Hallam Street" for a letter of mine which was printed in the British Medical Journal in 2002 about ongoing matters inside the GMC whilst I was an elected member there. It was my response largely to an agenda of spin and smear by a doctor from outside the GMC who wreaked havoc to my membership inside the GMC for the whole of my time in office. What made my position almost unique was that not only was I a club member at the time I wrote the letter but I had also been on the receiving end of the GMC's procedures wrongly many years before that. However what emerged was in reality a nightmare and hence my title here. The earlier part of my personal story has been published at http://www.nhsexposed.com/healthworkers/doctors/gmc/jennifer-colman1.shtml . This blog however is not so much a personal account of how or why I have been wronged but an account which gives the reader some facts and knowledge of the way in which the GMC has and can operate, both as a law unto itself and often secretly and undetected on the margins of the law, and get away with it. Or can they?
The George Staple Affair
This is a story of how the GMC spent a million pounds on George Staple, he of former Serious Fraud Office fame, in order to get him to write a supposed independent report on Dr Jennie Colman stating that she was really no good at all. Why did the GMC want someone to say Jennie Colman was no good, and why George Staple? These are all qustions which remain open ended.
What Jennie Colman had done in 2001 was to ask questions about the unaccountable accounting in the GMC which had been brought to her attention by Dr Alex Freeman, another GMC member, who scrutinised the accounts closely and told Dr Colman that there was a million pounds missing from the accounts. Alex Freeman was good with figures and she had recently returned from Columbia University in New York, where she had studied management. E-mails show that Peter Pinto de Sa, a member of the secretariat was reporting everything to Finlay Scott about Dr Colman and amongst them was the questions which she had asked about the monies and the fact that he had managed to deflect the questions. It must be remembered that the GMC had been given charitable status in 2001 and the members were trustees and as such were liable for the proper running of the GMC. As a trustee of a charity with a million pounds missing, Jennie Colman could see herself in the dock at the Old Bailey with the rest, but because she had been called to the Bar, she might be the only one who "went down" if she did nothing. Therefore it seems more like spin and smear for the GMC to announce at a later date that George Staple, ex-head of the Serious Fraud Office, was investigating Dr Colman as a member, when she had raised the accounts, lack of transparency and trustee status with the Charity Commission. Instead the whiff of financial wrongdoing on her part hung around. This is a classic ploy by the GMC who when faced with a problem of their making projects the problem onto the other party.
What did George Staple do? He did a number of things, all of which the GMC has continued to spend a lot of money on in order that the truth should never come out. Or did someone else pay George Staple? Was it the government and not the GMC after all? So what did he do? He took up his post on 2 May 2002 without any letter of engagement or contract in place and had been into the GMC in April 2002 to look at the 30 lever arch files on information and gossipy e-mails about Jennie Colman, which Finlay Scott had ordered staff to write and send onto him to store in his office. One has to ask what Finlay Scott thought he was up to when he allowed staff to write as they did and in particular to write and store an e-mail which referred to Jennie Colman in lewd terms, and others by Peter Pinto de Sa, about her not being able to come to dinner because she had no new clothes, and that she had not had any new shoes for 3 years. This is the level of behaviour which the staff were allowed to operate at in the GMC under Finlay Scott, who had obviously read all this as he had had it stored in his office. This was no more than another fishing expedition, or rather a large trawl. At first George Staple thought he would be doing the review in the GMC aided by these same staff who had been writing the e-mails, until Kevin Barron MP protested and Clifford Chance LLP was then appointed to be George Staple's secretariat, because George Staple had formerly been a partner there. So it was that the Staple affair began, and Sarah Bedwell, (the one whom Rita Pal successfully sued) shipped out all Dr Colman's files from Finlay Scott's office to Clifford Chance and unbeknown to Dr Colman. Scott moaned and blamed Colman because she had made a subject access request and it is recorded that he blamed her because he had to send a "truck load" of data to her home in Norfolk. This is what the doctor's Annual Retention Fee was going on as well as Sir Donald Irvine's hospitality lunches at the Cafe Royal with vintage wine with a select number of journalists. It's all spin folks. Cutting to the chase about what George Staple did, as well as his secretariat. George Staple in particular did not register as a data controller although he was handling Jennie Colman's personal data. This is a strict liability offence under the Data Protection Act 1998. Others have been prosecuted for this but the Information Commissioner and their advisors consistently refused to prosecute George Staple in spite of it being a strict liability offence. They have prosecuted other solicitors. The courts know about it and some judges also, but like the Flying Dutchman they sail on under this rackety regime of New Labour interference, and the spin against Jennie Colman continues. It's a cover up. How can a supposed but not very independent review be dressed up to have any probity or standing when the main player in it: 1. has no letter of appointment; 2. has no contract for 10 weeks; 3. rummages in Dr Colman's 30 files of personal data collected by Finlay Scott; and 4. doesn't bother or doesn't know that he has to register as a data controller, and when challenged about his antics by Dr Colman writes to the Information Commissioner telling them that he has Jennie Colman's box of data but he hasn't looked in it when he has already looked in the first box, collated it and written a preliminary view back to Sarah Bedwell. What has he been up to? Are his actions reminiscent of the time when the Serious Fraud Office was known as "the nightmare on Elm Street" with Staple at the head. It got worse. In August 2002 Clifford Chance LLP put Dr Colman's personal data on a plane and flew it out to their Chicago Office where George Staple dropped in whilst on holiday, picked it up and drove around the United States with Colman's data in his luggage telephoning Martin Smith, an assitant solcitor formerly of Clifford Chance LLP, now partner at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP (Solicitors to the GMC- are we surprised?) to relay mesaages and field questions from Dr Colman . One assumes the Annual Retention Fee was paying for all this, including carriage of Dr Colman's data by aeroplane to O'Hare airport, as well as the international telephone calls. Clifford Chance LLP are one of the largest firms of solicitor's in the world. They stretch across several continents. It seems they ought to have advised their retired partner about the Data Protection Act, after all the present Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, was formerly at Clifford Chance LLP, and he knew George Staple. So was there a conflict of interests and was this one of the reasons that the Information Commissioner constantly refused through Francis Aldhouse at the Commissioners to prosecute George Staple for his offence? It's who you know folks, no more and no less. George Staple eventually wrote a report of 215 pages or someone else did. Perhaps it was Martin Smith his assistant, after all he then went on to provide services to the Hutton inquiry. Staple published large amounts of Dr Colman's unrectified and unredacted data in his report. There you have it, Finlay Scott instructed staff to write down everything about Dr Colman and send it to him for storage. He then favoured George Staple to look into Dr Colman, and sent the data to Staple who eventually published it in his report. However to be fair to Staple he did tell them it should remain confidential and only sent them 4 copies. The GMC then ripped off the spiral binding, copied it and sent it out to their members over night. "Colman is no good" it screamed but it also said neither was the GMC and was critical of Scott in particular. Catto immediately flew out to the West Indies and read it on the beach whilst the staff decided to write on his behalf to dr Colman admitting liability. Dr Colman's data was well travelled, better than the doctor herself. However on 10 December 2003 the Information Commissioner found against George Staple and Clifford Chance LLP separately and stated that they had acted unfairly and unlawfully in the processing of Dr Colman's data. Dr Colman had already had a meeting with Clifford Chance LLP about this before the Commissioner's finding. In fact she saw Jonathan Peddie, a risk management person there, who said that when they realised what had happened they had sealed up all Dr Colman's personal data and were hanging onto it and if they were found to be at fault they would act accordingly and when it was all over they would let her have it back or destroy it. Did they? Well!!! Eventually George Staple appointed his own solicitor to represent him in spite of extracting indemnity from the GMC as he thought Colman might sue him. But Graeme Catto had signed a contract with Staple which bound him and Clifford Chance LLP to act lawfully in the conduct of the review. They didn't act lawfully or fairly or properly and have tried every trick in the book to wriggle off the hook for to long. In essence that is some of what Staple did when he danced to the tune of the GMC. When asked recently why he did it he said simply that he was paid to do a job. Who paid and why? Will we ever know? Does Dr Colman know? She isn't saying very much, in fact she cannot hardly be tracked down, if at all!
Tom Rider and Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP at work
As many of you may know Tom Rider is the partner at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, (FFW), who almost exclusively represents the GMC's interests. Tom was an assistant at Field Fisher, then known as Waterhouse, until he became a partner in early 1987. The significance of 1987 is that it was the year the GMC erased Dr Colman from the medical register unjustly. Having been found out shortly thereafter for sharp and unlawful practise the GMC then restored Dr Colman to the register in 1989 with a public admission that she should not have gone before the PCC. Obviously that means that Dr Colman bears an erroneous finding of serious professional misconduct, which the GMC in conjunction with others such as Dr Paul Diggory have consistently used as a big stick to beat Dr Colman with. Field Fisher have constantly covered up for the GMC in withholding documents from Dr Colman who needed them in order to pursue justice. It is questionable whether this goes beyond the bounds of client care and strays into unethical behaviour under the solicitor's rules. However when she did receive the documents she then saw that Waterhouse ,(now FFW), had sent out its Mr Johnston in 1986 to persuade others to allow him to write accounts of what he thought Dr Colman had been doing. It is debatable as to whether those whom he saw ever knew that these accounts written in Mr Johnston's own handwriting would then suddenly be transformed into so-called witness statements, often unsigned but offered as evidence against Dr Colman at her erasure hearing. Sister Mary Burden, the ward sister on Dr Colman's hospital ward in Mansfield stated whilst giving evidence against Dr Colman in 1987 that she had never made a statement for the GMC against Dr Colman. Again in December 2005 Sister Burden when showed her original evidence from the 1987 transcript wrote to Dr Colman's solicitors reiterating the fact that she still had no recollection of ever making a statement for the GMC. It is a matter of record and also extremely disturbing as Dr Colman and her lawyers have a "statement" from Field Fisher which is said to be that of this ward sister who never made a statement. However they also have letters from Waterhouse, (now FFW), to Sister Burden in 1986 and 1987 offering financial inducements over and above her travelling and subsistence if she would come to London and give evidence against Dr Colman. It gets worse as another nurse, Comer, and her husband were both offered financial inducments over and above travelling and subsistence to come to London and give evidence. Why pay her husband one wonders as he had no part in this? It was becoming a jamboree, paid for by the medical profession through their subscriptions to the GMC. Waterhouse, (now FFW), arranged for these people to stay in the same hotel overnight so undoubtedly they may have been exchanging views about the trial on the night before and would not have come to the trial untainted. Dirty deeds to achieve a tainted and unjust result at any cost. Colman had to go, she could not remain as a doctor after all Dr Anne Brown was busily telephoning the GMC to say that Dr Colman was a mentally ill lesbian and therefore by the DSM definition a pervert. However there was no truth in this and she was doing what malicious women often do best which is to spread rumours and therefore cause maximum damage. She was also telephoning Field Fisher Waterhouse in 1986, over a year after Dr Colman had ceased to be employed by their mutual employer spreading gossip which was also noted down by Field Fisher and kept on their files. So the question is where does Tom Rider come into all of this? Dr Colman has had a number of conversations since 2005 with Tom Rider about the way in which she was dealt with by the GMC and Field Fisher Waterhouse in the 1980s. He has stated that he was only an assistant at the time this was going on and not a partner- thus trying to shift the responsibility for any wrongdoing by his firm during that period of time away from himself. However when Dr Colman pointed out his name was on their letter heads as a partner during that era he said, "Oh" and moved to the next argument which he constantly repeats, which is, "But it's 18 years ago". In other words he has no argument for why Dr Colman should not have her name cleared. Well no, it is more than that now and whether it is 18 years or 28 years or more there is no doubt that the evidence, if that is what it was, was fabricated to produce a result of erasure, which was predetermined and written down against Dr Colman's name some weeks before the actual hearing. The GMC staff said there was no case against Dr Colman but because John Walton, the president wanted to get rid of Dr Colman from the medical profession for personal reasons built on and heavily influenced by the gossip winging its way to him, Waterhouse ( now FFW) conveniently obliged and produced the incredible evidence for him. Money speaks and he who pays the piper calls the tune, and Field Fisher Waterhouse have had a large and ever growing retainer from the GMC for a very long time. The GMC should have been guided by the solicitors whom they employ to err on the right side of the law rather than be nothing more than "yes-men" who would put the law and their ethical and professional rules and guidelines to one side in order to serve the GMC at all costs, thus reaping huge and lasting financial benefits. There needs to be an inquiry into what has been happening between the GMC and Field Fisher Waterhouse for many years. Tom Rider recently said to Dr Colman, "So you think you can get legally privileged documents do you?" Dr Colman reminded him of the precedent created by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry when it was deemed so crucial to the justice that was being sought that legally privileged documents were delivered up. This is just such a case and Field Fisher Waterhouse and Tom Rider need to reflect upon the documents which they still hold and refuse to release. Deliver all the documents Tom. Do the right thing and redeem your postion. Time is passing and your master's boat has sprung a leak. Are you going down with it?
Are Graeme Catto, Finlay Scott and Tom Rider implicated in Misfeasance?
In November 2001, unbeknown to most council members, Tom Rider and Isabel Nisbet, the then director of Fitness to Practise, went and saw Charles Flint QC of Blackstone Chambers for an advice about whether they could get rid of Dr Colman from the General Medical Council or from the Professional Conduct Committee to which she had been elected. Charles Flint said that statutory provisions protected Dr Colman's position in both cases and they could not prevent Dr Colman from sitting on the PCC and neither could they oust her from the Council. This was not what they wanted to hear. Graeme Catto chaired a meeting of the non-statutory committee of friends and advisors to the president, (The PAC), on 3 December 2001 solely to discuss how to get rid of Dr Colman, which would prove impossible in the light of Charles Flint's advice. Graeme Catto and all other council members are trustees and have a joint and individual responsibility for the executive staff which includes Finlay Scott, but at this meeting on 3 December 2001 Catto, Scott and the friends and advisors conspired to ignore the advice they had commissioned, hid it from the rest of the trustees, ignored statutory provisions and agreed to review Dr Colman instead. Tom Rider was at the meeting and seven weeks later he produced his own version of Charles Flint's advice in a letter to Finlay Scott. However as they knew that their committee of friends and advisors had no statutory standing it then fell to them to tell the Council as a whole, two months later, that the Council had to vote for a review. Obviously if the Council had known about the Charles Flint Advice and that Dr Colman's position was protected by statutory provisions then they would have had considerable difficulty in being persuaded by Scott or Catto that it was right or lawful to even have a review. Tom Rider was present at the meeting with Charles Flint, the meeting on 3 December 2001 and the council meeting. Why did this solicitor from Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, who was accountable to the whole membership of trustees including Dr Colman not say anything about the Charles Flint Advice to the membership? He has never explained himself yet but he will eventually have to. No-one would ever have known about the Advice if Dr Colman hadn't made a subject access request later and discovered it in a box by chance. George Staple would not have known about it if Dr Colman had not sent him a copy. Individual council members would not have known if Dr Colman had not sent them copies and George Staple hadn't have made a bit of a fuss about it either.
George Staple's opinion of Finlay Scott's non-disclosure
George Staple wrote, "I have focussed on the fact that the draft letter prepared by Tom Rider reporting Charles Flint's advice was not produced to the Council on 27 February 2002 when they took the decision to set up the Review. That is because Dr Colman has charged Finlay Scott with supression of the document rather than having failed to act on the advice. Finlay Scott has told me that whether or not Tom Rider's draft letter reporting the advice should have been shown to the Council or committees does not seem to him to be material. In his view, the material questions concern the reporting of the advice and actions taken in accordance with it, not the provision of the draft letter itself. He has pointed out to me that the substance of the advice was conveyed to 13 members of the PAC all of whom are Council members, and 9 of whom are members of the PCC, on 3 December 2001. Nevertheless, I consider that either the draft letter or all aspects of the advice contained in it were relevant to the Council's decision on 27 February 2002 and accordingly should have been disclosed." What is this if not misfeasance? Finlay Scott should have resigned when George Staple published this to the council.
The Rt Hon Kevin Barron PC MP's opinion about the non-disclosure to George Staple
As readers will know Kevin Barron is a lay member of the GMC, and also Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee, who told George Staple that in relation to the Charles Flint advice if he was paying a lawyer he would want more than a draft. He said that most people would have thought that Charles Flint's advice was the right view and wished that the document had been available during the debate in the Council. Charles Flint's advice accorded with common sense. At the time of the Council debate someone had known about the advice who was sitting on the platform. However the whole thing had only come out when Dr Colman obtained disclosure through her subject access requests. His view was that if Dr Colman was a member of the organisation she had a right to see the documents. It was quite clear that the existence of the Charles Flint advice was a "little stick of dynamite". Kevin Barron said that at the end of all this someone was going to have to sit round a table and resolve the issue.
George Staple's non-compliance with the Data Protection Act during the Independent External Review
The Information Commissioner wrote to Dr Colman about George Staple on 10 December 2003 in the following terms, " I am writing further to my letter of 7th November 2003 with regard to the request for Assessment you submitted concerning the processing of your personal data by Mr George Staple. We have received a further response from Mr Staple, and on the basis of all the information with which we have been provided we are able to form our final view that the processing in question is unlikely to have been in compliance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. This is because there appears to have been a contravention of the First Data Protection Principle, which requires that personal data should be 'processed fairly and lawfully'. As outlined in my previous corresondence however, in disclosing your personal data to the Electoral Reform Services during late summer 2002 without first obtaining your consent or satisfying at least one of the conditions set out in Schedule 2 of the Act, it would appear likely that Mr Staple has contravened this principle of the Act. Again, since George Staple and Clifford Chance Limited Liability Partnership appear to have been acting as joint data controllers in relation to your personal data, both parties would be responsible for this diclosure. I will write separately concerning the assessment relating to Clifford Chance Limited Liability Partnership. We will, therefore, contact Mr Staple to inform him of our final view and of the follow-up measures that we consider appropriate. Jonathan Gray, Compliance Officer.
Clifford Chance LLP's non-compliance with the Data Protection Act during the Review
The Information Commissioner also wrote to Dr Colman about Clifford Chance LLP on 10 December 2003 in the following terms, " I am in this correspondence writing further to my letter of 11 November 2003 with regard to the Request for Assessment you submitted concerning the processing of your personal data by Clifford Chance Limited Liability Partnership. We have received a response from Clifford Chance LLP, and on the basis of all the information with which we have been provided we are able to form our final view that the processing in question is unlikely to have been in compliance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998. This is because, as with Mr George Staple, there appears to have been a contravention of the First Data Protection Principle, which requires that personal data should be 'processed fairly and lawfully' In disclosing your personal data to the Electoral Reform Services during the late summer 2002 without first obtaining your consent or satisfying at least one of the conditions set out in Schedule 2 of the Act, it would appear likely that Clifford Chance LLP has contravened this principple of the Act. As explained in my correspondence concerning the assessment submitted in relation to Mr Staple, since George Staple and Clifford Chance LLP appear to have been acting as joint data controllers in relation to your personal data, both parties would be responsible for this disclosure. I have written separately concerning the assessment relating to Mr Staple. We will therefore, contact Clifford Chance and inform them of our final view and of the follow up measures that we consider appropriate. Jonathan Gray, Compliance Officer.
George Staple and Clifford Chance LLP breach their contract with the GMC
Neither George Staple nor Clifford Chance LLP complied with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 as the foregoing sections quoting the Information Commissioner's letters to Dr Colman about both of them in December 2003 show. The position of the GMC was that Graeme Catto signed a contract with both of these parties on 10 July 2002, 12 weeks after George Staple's so-called appointment, in which clause 11.1 stated, "You shall comply with your obligations under the applicable data protection laws and regulations during the continuence of your appointment and thereafter, including the Directive of the European Parliament and the Council thereafter, including the Directive of the European Parliament and the Council 95/46/EC and the Data Protection Act 1998 (as amended or replaced from time to time) (collectively "the DPA")." George Staple and Clifford Chance are in breach of the contract which Graeme Catto signed and which very few in the council saw until after the review had ended and then most members probably did not read it. This review was a farce of the sort that only the GMC could disorganise. On the one hand you have Catto, Scott and Tom Rider ignoring statutory provisions and hiding the Charles Flint Advice from the council, an act verging on misfeasance, because the advice did not suite them or their purpose. Dr Colman charged Finlay Scott with suppressing the Advice from the trustee body of the council. George Staple upheld the charge and said that Finlay Scott should have disclosed the Charles Flint Advice to the Council when they took the decision to have the review. Kevin Barron said he wished that the Charles Flint Advice had been available and it was his view that Dr Colman should have seen it. On the other hand documents show that the decision had already been taken before the council met and favourite members were whipped into line to rubber stamp the decision to review. The result has been a cover up of the wrongdoing and unlawful activity surrounding this review and the Reviewer and his secretariat and constant spin and smear against Dr Colman by the press office of the GMC feeding stories to a compliant journalist at the BMJ, the mouth piece for the profession. The review if lawful which is debatable in any event when looked at in conjunction with its terms should be thrown out and those responsible for it asked to resign. It's your money doctor and it's been wasted on unlawful and unfair activity directed at Dr Colman whom you elected with an overhwelming majority above all others to represent the profession in the public interest on the GMC. In essence the GMC acted disreputably and then told you the doctor out there that they had demonstrated that your choice of member was not fit for any purpose. It is the GMC who remains unfit for purpose.