Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A summary of the case of Robbie Powell - by Will Powell

Robbie Powell died at the age of ten on the 17th April 1990 of a treatable condition called Addison’s disease which, unknown to his parents, had been suspected four months before his death, when he had been an inpatient at Morriston Hospital, Swansea. The ACTH test to confirm the diagnosis was ordered by the hospital consultant [Dr William Raymond Forbes] but not performed. Addison's disease invariably results in death without treatment; however, if treated, the patient can live a full and normal life. The hospital informed Robbie’s GPs of the suspicion of Addison’s disease, by letter, and requested immediate referral if the child had a recurrence of, amongst other things, vomiting and/or abdominal pain.

Between the 2nd and 17th April Robbie was seen by five GPs from the local Health Centre on seven separate occasions [that is, on 2nd [Dr Elwyn Hughes], 6th [Dr Nicola Flower], 11th [Dr Mike Williams], 15th [Dr Paul Boladz], 16th [Dr Keith Hughes] and twice on the 17th [Dr Nicola Flower]. In the 2 weeks leading to Robert's death he had been vomiting [a characteristic symptom of Addison's disease which had led to his initial hospital admission], was so weak he couldn't walk unassisted and had excessive weight loss, due to severe dehydration. On the day he died the child had dilated pupils and central cyanosis when he regained consciousness after fainting, while his mother assisted him to the toilet. In the light of these symptoms and the several earlier consultations a GP [Dr Nicola Flower] refused hospital admission on her first visit on the day of death. On her second visit she again refused hospital admission but eventually agreed to do so following a heated argument. However, the Powells' request for an ambulance was refused. On arrival at the hospital, Mr Powell watched his youngest son take his last conscious breath. Robert was declared dead shortly afterwards.

The hospital reported Robbie’s death to the Swansea Coroner [Mr J R Morgan] and a pathologist [Dr Susan Williams] employed by the health authority that would subsequently admit negligence and liability, for Robbie’s death in 1996, in civil proceedings, was instructed by the Coroner to perform the post mortem. The pathologist omitted from the post mortem report that Robbie had been suspected of Addison’s disease, the previous December, and that the test to confirm the disease had been ordered by the hospital consultant but not carried out – had it been Robbie would not have died. The pathologist also misrepresented Robbie’s external appearance by stating that he appeared normally nourished when his condition on arrival at hospital was subsequently described by the doctor, who treated him, as being like a child from a ‘concentration camp’. Robbie had suffered two heart attacks because of critical dehydration – the second being fatal. Robbie didn’t die because he had Addison’s disease - the child died because the GPs, in the days leading to his death, failed to recognise a child with critical dehydration notwithstanding they recorded weight loss.

The Coroner failed to have preliminary inquiries notwithstanding the Powells alleged medical negligence and had formally requested an inquest. Based solely on the flawed post mortem report the Coroner decided that Robbie’s death was natural causes and the Powells’ request for an inquest was refused. It took the Powells ten years of pressurising the Coroner and a Fiat from the Attorney General before the Coroner agreed to open an inquest. The inquest was opened and adjourned in December 2000 pending the conclusion of a third criminal investigation by an independent police force. The inquest did not take place until January 2004 [see below]. On the day the inquest was open and adjourned, this being almost 11 years after Robbie had died, the Coroner, Mr J R Morgan, asked Mr Powell if he had anything to say. Mr Powell responded, “Has the circumstances of Robbie’s death changed in any way since the night he died?” Mr Morgan said, “No”. Mr Powell then said, “Thank you”.

It is the Powells’ contention that if the Coroner had adequately performed his duties the truth about the negligent circumstances, leading up to Robbie’s death, would have come to light at the inquest, which should have taken place in 1990. Furthermore, had the Coroner adequately performed his duties and forthwith secured Robbie’s original GP and hospital medical records they would not have been subsequently falsified in the way that they were.

On the 20th April 1990, three days after Robbie’s death, the Powells were informed by the Coroner’s office that Robbie had died of Addison’s disease. Dr Keith Hughes came to the Powells’ home to explain in more detail the result of the post mortem. Mr Powell was devastated to learn, after reading Robbie’s GP medical records, that Addison’s disease had been suspected the previous December and that it was falsely claimed the parents had been told that an ACTH test was necessary – this test would have confirmed that Robbie had Addison’s disease and he would have received the appropriate treatment that would have saved his life by preventing the subsequent critical dehydration. A further letter also stated that the GPs should re-refer Robbie immediately back to hospital if he had a recurrence of vomiting and abdominal pain and the GPs had clearly failed to do so. Mr Powell was so concerned about this information and particularly the pre-death suspicion of Addison’s disease, and the GPs’ failure to carry out the consultant’s instructions to re-refer Robbie, that he asked his closest friend to witness and contemporaneously note the GP medical records. Mr Powell took the view that the GPs, in the light of this information, had no defence whatsoever to their negligence. Mr Powell was advised by his friend to ask someone wholly independent and, as a consequence, the local vicar agreed and the relevant content of Robbie’s GP medical records were witnessed and contemporaneously noted six days after Robbie’s death.

It was established that only one GP had actually read Robbie’s GP medical records. This GP [Dr Mike Williams], on the 11th April [six days before death], informed the Powells that he would refer Robbie immediately back to the hospital. However, he failed to do so, and the letter was typed post death and backdated. It was later accepted [by the police and the CPS] that this letter was backdated to mislead the reader into to believing that the referral had been made and the content of the letter was also fabricated.

It was also established some years later that the GP’s consultation notes, regarding the day of Robbie’s death, were not written until weeks after the child’s death and were later established to be forgeries. The GP [Dr Nicola Flower] admitted under police caution that the notes were not written until approximately 8 weeks after Robbie’s death

Thirteen days after Robbie’s death the Powells made a formal complaint through the NHS complaints procedure because the senior partner [Dr Keith Hughes] of the health centre had refused Mr Powell’s request for an investigation. A Medical Services Committee [‘MSC’] found nine months later that four of the GPs had not been in breach of their terms of service, but that the GP who had seen Robbie twice on the day of death had been. Dr Nicola Flower was told to conform to her terms of service in future, which was the minimum reprimand. The proceedings were a complete whitewash and the evidence of the Powells and that of their witnesses was completely ignored. The Powells’ allegation regarding the post death falsification of Robbie’s medical records, which was subsequently accepted by the police and the CPS, was also ignored. The MSC members, as well as the Chairman [William Glyn Rees - a Magistrate] when shown evidence by the police in 2001, regarding the falsifying of Robbie’s medical records agreed that the GPs had deceived them in 1990.

The Powells made several very serious complaints to the Health Service Ombudsman but it was claimed that the complaints were outside his jurisdiction. When Mr Powell requested all the documents related to his case, under the Data Protection Act, from the Ombudsman’s office, in 2000, he was shocked to find out that derogatory comments had been made about him. For example it was stated that I do not tell the truth, that I withhold information, that I am vindictive, an alley cat, caveman, bully, aggressive and loud. Although the then Parliamentary Ombudsman, Sir Michael Buckley, declined to comment on these inappropriate comments about me I received a personal and a written apology from his successor. Ann Abraham stated in a letter dated 26th October 2004,

“The comments made about you personally ain the files by some of the Ombudsman’s officers were highly judgmental, inappropriate and entirely unacceptable. I can offer you my sincere apologies for that. In my view they demonstrated a deplorable lack of sensitivity and understanding by those concerned, all the more so given the very difficult and painful circumstances which had led to your complaints.”

The Powells appealed to the Secretary of State for Wales against the MSC’s decision and a hearing was listed for three days in March 1992. However, due to lack of time, the appeal was adjourned for six months. At the reconvened hearing it was established that Robbie’s GP medical records had gone missing from the Welsh Office and had been tampered with by the addition of further medical notes, which originated from the respondent GPs, but had not been present or disclosed to either the Powells or their legal team previously. As a consequence of the appeal chairman’s refusal to adequately investigate this matter or call in the police the Powells were forced to withdraw from the appeal as they had lost all confidence in its independence. Although the Welsh Office had received Robbie’s GP records, by recorded delivery, directly from the Powells’ forensic document examiner, a week before the appeal hearing started in March, the Welsh Office denied receipt, and continued to do so for three years. Furthermore, the Secretary of State for Wales falsely denied receipt of the GP records in a Parliamentary Question in 1995. The receipt of the GP medical records was only accepted after the Powells submitted irrefutable evidence. It came to light subsequently that the respondent GPs and/or their legal team had at least one clandestine discussion with one or more of the appeal panel in March 1992.

Following the Powells’ withdrawal from the appeal they complained about the Welsh
Office to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, via their MP, but were told that a complaint of maladministration against the Welsh Office was outside his jurisdiction. However, five years after the appeal the Parliamentary Ombudsman agreed to investigate the Powells’ MP’s further complaint that the Secretary of State for Wales [John Redwood] had falsely answered a Parliamentary Question. Seven years after the actual withdrawal from the appeal the Welsh Office was found guilty of maladministration and criticised for causing the collapse of the appeal. The Powells were awarded £500 compensation and the Welsh Office was ordered to reimburse the Powells legal costs, which were substantial. However, the Welsh Office refused to reconvene the appeal hearing claiming there was no provision in law to do so. As with the MSC members the Welsh Office panel also subsequently informed the police that they had been deceived by the GPs.

As a consequence of the cover up by the NHS investigating authorities the Powells, in April 1993, with the support of public funding, issued writs against both the health authority and the GPs for negligence and causation.

Both the Powells were assessed by a psychiatrist and were found to have suffered psychological damage. Mrs Powell as a consequence of the events leading to Robbie’s death and the death itself and Mr Powell as a consequence of the cover up. For some reason that has never been explained the psychiatrist [Dr Adrianne Reveley] made no mention in her report that Mr Powell had watched his son take his last conscious breath shortly after their arrival at hospital, which affects him to this very day.

In 1994 the Powells made a complaint to Dyfed Powys Police alleging forgery and perverting the course of justice. They submitted copious documents and a detailed report, in support of their allegations, which was compiled by their legal team. In May 1996 it was confirmed that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against any of the GPs or their staff. At this stage, the Powells were unaware that Dyfed Powys Police employed the GPs as police surgeons. This investigation was so flawed that Dyfed Powys Police was subsequently found to be institutionally incompetent [please see below for more details]. It is the Powells’ contention that if this police investigation had been adequately investigated the outcome of the civil proceedings would have been very different.

In June 1996 the trial was listed to be heard in the High Court in Cardiff for a period of six weeks. However, a month before trial, with the same information that was available on the night Robbie died, West Glamorgan Health Authority admitted medical negligence and liability for Robbie’s death and paid £80,000 into court. Although liability was admitted the health authority falsely claimed that no individual doctors was to blame a well-known tactic by health authorities which, in my view, demonstrates a staggering disregard for the deceased patient’s life and is disrespectful to the bereaved relatives. The GPs solicitor also contacted the Powells’ solicitor and offered to settle the claim out of court – the Powells were claiming in excess of £300,000 compensation and it is unknown how much would have been actually paid to the Powells if they had agreed to settle the claim. However, it should be noted that the Powells could not be bought off and lost substantial damages in their expectation of British justice.

Simultaneously to the admission of liability, the GPs made an application to the court to strike out the Powells’ claim for post death damage as a consequence of the GPs’ negligence and dishonesty. As mentioned above, the Powells refused to settle, as they wanted their case heard in court. However, before the trial could start, the judge had to consider whether or not to exercise his discretion to hear the GPs’ late application to strike out the case against them. In his wisdom the judge decided to hear the application and, after four days in chambers, struck out the case against the GPs, but gave the Powells leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

At this stage, the Powells’ legal team and representatives from the Legal Aid Board informed the Powells that if they refused to accept the compensation from the health authority they would not be publicly funded to appeal against the judgment and therefore denied the opportunity to challenge the High Court judgment in the Court of Appeal.

The Powells were left with no other option but to accept the compensation on behalf of Mrs Powell. The £80,000 compensation was secured by the court pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal. The appeal was unsuccessful and the Powells’ £80,000 compensation was completely absorbed in legal costs and therefore they did not receive a penny. There was also an order for costs against the Powells for the deficit. The Court of Appeal refused the Powells’ application for leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

It should be noted that, as a consequence of Powell v Boladz, the General Medical Council in 1998 changed its guidelines. Although doctors don’t have a duty in law to tell the truth to parents following the negligent death of a child the new GMC guidelines made it clear that doctors had an ethical and moral duty to do so.

With public funding the Powells petitioned the House of Lords in 1997 but their petition was rejected without explanation.

The House of Lords subsequently agreed to consider a case in November 2001 regarding assisted suicide when Lord Bingham stated that that case “raises issues in which the Courts in this country have not had previous occasion to deal”. As a consequence of this comment, the Powells instructed their solicitor to write again to the House of Lords, as they believed that this very same argument applied in Powell v Boladz. However, as before and without explanation, the House of Lords rejected the Powells’ further submissions.

In 2008, more than a decade after the perverse Court of Appeal judgment in Powell v Boladz, the House of Lords overruled the judgment in the case of Total Network v Her Majesty’s Revenue [Sessions 2007-08 [2008] UKHL 19 - on Appeal from: [2007] EWCA Civ 39].

Not only did the House of Lords deny Robbie and the Powell family justice, as well as the many other cases that failed subsequently, as a consequence of this erroneous Court of Appeal judgment, the Powells were charged £80,000 for the privilege with an Order for costs against them. The Powells take the view that if the House of Lords had addressed this point of law when petitioned in 1997 the Court of Appeal judgment would have been overruled then.

Following the House of Lord’s rejection to permit the Powells leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal judgment the case was then submitted to the European Court of Human Rights but erroneously deemed inadmissible on 4th May 2000 [Application no. 45305/99 by William and Anita POWELL against the United Kingdom]. Please note that irrespective of the perversity of such a judgment, the applicant has no right to appeal. The letter that accompanied the judgment stated, “The decision is final and is not subject to any appeal either to the Court or to any other body”

The following interpretation of the law was stated at the bottom of page 15:
"Whilst it is arguable that doctors had a duty not to falsify medical records under the common law (Sir Donaldson MR's "duty of candour"), before Powell v Boladz there was no binding decision of the courts as to the existence of such a duty. As the law stands now, however, doctors have no duty to give parents of a child who died as a result of their negligence a truthful account of the circumstances of the death, nor even to refrain from deliberately falsifying records."

The ECHR found:
1. That the Powells, by withdrawing their Welsh Office appeal, closed one of the options which may have uncovered the extent of the lack of co-ordination among the doctors concerned at the relevant time notwithstanding the Court had been provided with a copy of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report, which found that the Welsh Office had been guilty of maladministration and had, by its actions and its failure to act, at the time, caused the collapse of the appeal. The Powells were also paid £500 compensation and their legal costs of the appeal reimbursed;
2. That the Powells could not claim to be victims under Article 2 of the Convention because they had accepted compensation in civil proceedings notwithstanding they had been forced to do so by the restrictions of public funding in the UK and, in any event, did not receive the compensation as they had appealed against the perverse High Court judgment;
3. That by accepting the compensation the Powells had denied themselves the opportunity to have their case heard in the UK civil court when the exact opposite is actually what had happened. Furthermore, when negligence and liability is admitted in civil proceedings there is no provision in UK law for the merits of a case to be heard in the civil courts;
4. The court failed to recognise and adequately address the gross failures regarding the police investigation notwithstanding an independent police force subsequently found that the criminal investigation was so flawed that it demonstrated institutionally incompetence; and
5. The Court failed to recognise and adequately address the Coroner’s failure and refusal to have an inquest in 1990 in the light of the available evidence of medical negligence. The inquest jury found in April 2004 that Robbie had died of ‘natural causes aggravated by neglect’. This is undisputable testimony that there should have been an inquest in 1990 and that the Coroner, Mr J R Morgan, had failed in his duty.
A month before the ECHR ruled on the admissibility or otherwise in the Powell case it had heard an admissibility application regarding Jordan v UK [4th April 2000]. Although the ECHR was aware that civil proceedings had been initiated in the Jordan case it appeared to have no relevance whatsoever to that application and the case was found, contrary the Powell case, to be admissible. A year later the same court [and five of the same judges] found in Jordan v UK (Application no. 24746/94 – 4th May 2001) that civil proceedings, in any event, do not fulfil the State’s obligation under Article 2 – this was supported subsequently when this issue was considered under the Human Rights Act in Wright & Another v The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Case no. CO/4031/2000 – 20th June 2001).
The following was stated in the Wright judgment:
“61. I turn next to the civil action. In my judgment the civil action did not constitute an effective official investigation, because liability was admitted at an early stage. There never was a hearing at which evidence concerning the circumstances of Mr. Wright's death was adduced or tested. I do not of course criticise the defendant's admission of liability in April 2000. On the contrary, I commend it. The civil proceedings in this case are irrelevant to the defendant's procedural obligations under articles 2 and 3 of the Convention. I am reinforced in this conclusion by paragraph 141 of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in Jordan v. United Kingdom.”

The Powells feel that the ECHR has been in breach of their human rights with no course of redress.

Complaint to Dyfed Powys Police

In March 1994, the Powells made a formal complaint to Dyfed Powys Police about the falsification of Robbie’s medical records. This investigation was so inadequate that Mr Powell, through his solicitor, asked to withdraw the complaint in November 1995, as it was obvious that the CPS would advise that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone – the police had even failed to take Section 9 statements from the Powells let alone many of the other relevant witnesses. However, Mr Powell was informed that he could not withdraw the complaint, as the matters raised were so serious. As Mr Powell predicted, the CPS subsequently found in early 1996 that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone and the head of CID, Detective Chief Superintendent [DCS] Jeff Thomas then inappropriately informed the doctors, in writing, that they would not be prosecuted. In March 2003, CPS York used this letter, as being one of the reasons for not prosecuting the doctors when there was sufficient evidence to do so, as this letter gave them an “unqualified assurance that they would not be prosecuted”. It later came to light that the GPs were actually employed by Dyfed Powys Police as police surgeons and there was some evidence that DCS Thomas personally knew Dr Keith Hughes.

Between 1996 and 1998, Mr Powell attempted to highlight the inadequacies of the police investigation to senior police officers at Dyfed Powys Police by submitting copious documents. However, his efforts were ignored until he made a formal complaint in October 1998 against Mr Keith Turner, the then Deputy Chief Constable. The police investigation was then re-opened in January 1999 and headed again by DCS Thomas who agreed 16 lines of inquiries that the police had refused Mr Powell’s request to investigate during the course of the earlier investigation. The complaint against Mr Turner, as far as Mr Powell is aware, was not processed, and the person complained against was then promoted to Chief Constable of another welsh Force. It wasn’t long into the investigation when Mr Powell realised that this second police investigation was also inadequate and eventually met and raised his concerns with the then Deputy Chief Constable in April 2000. It was agreed that a Detective Chief Inspector from the West Midlands Police would be appointed to review the case. As a consequence of this review, the same DCI was appointed to conduct a third police investigation and Avon & Somerset Constabulary was appointed to investigate the failures of Dyfed Powys Police between 1994-2000.

In March 2002 a substantive file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service [“CPS”] in York for consideration, which contained, amongst other evidence, approximately 140 Police Section 9 Statements and medical and forensic reports. The police file was sent to York because Mr Powell had complained about the local CPS. The DCI identified 35 possible charges against the GPs and their secretary some of which were alternative charges.

During the course of this police investigation the DCI contacted the General Medical Council [“GMC”] and kept them informed of the weight of evidence that was being secured against the GPs.

In March 2003 CPS York informed the Powells that, although there was sufficient evidence to prosecute two of the GPs and a secretary for forgery and perverting the course of justice, they would not be charged. According to the CPS it would not be in the public interest to do so because of the passage of time, the failure of Dyfed Powys Police to adequately investigate the case between 1994-2000 and because the head of CID, DCS Thomas, had sent the GPs, who, as mentioned above, were acting police surgeons, an inappropriate letter in 1996 informing the GPs that they would not be prosecuted. It would appear that an inappropriate letter, such as this, has more impact on a criminal case than the new reforms to the ‘double jeopardy’ law notwithstanding the same crimes were repeated after this letter was sent. Under the new reforms, had these doctors been charged, prosecuted and acquitted in a criminal court, they could be retried if further significant evidence came to light, as is the case here. Furthermore, the GPs repeated the criminal offences on more than one occasion after DCS Thomas sent them the ‘get out of jail’ letter.

Also in March 2003 Avon & Somerset Constabulary found Dyfed Powys Police ‘institutionally incompetent’ between 1994-2000 with regards to their inadequate police investigations. The two Dyfed Powys senior police officers directly involved in the inadequate/corrupt investigations, DCS Thomas and Superintendent John Daniels, were permitted to retire following the serving of discipline notices and therefore did not even participate in the disciplinary investigation. Due to the serious allegations being made by the Powells regarding, inter alia, misfeasance in public office, Avon & Somerset Constabulary had the power to interview these officers but failed to do so. It is interesting to note that Avon & Somerset Constabulary were confident in coming to the conclusion that no criminal offences had been committed by these retired officers notwithstanding they were not even interviewed and had not explained why their police investigations were so inept in the light of their high rank and 30 years experience.

Also in March 2003 the CPS and Dyfed Police met the GMC, the doctors’ governing body, to inform them of the available evidence supporting the criminal activity of the doctors involved in Robbie’s death. Following this meeting, and after the Powells were informed that the doctors would not be charged, notwithstanding there was sufficient evidence to do so, the police and the CPS advised the Powells to make a formal complaint to the GMC, which the Powells did on 3rd June 2003. Dyfed Powys Police actually drafted a letter of complaint to the GMC. The Powells were led to believe that all the relevant evidence would be disseminated to the GMC and the National Assembly for Wales, as a matter of urgency. However, it was not until the 3rd February 2006 that Dyfed Powys Police disclosed this evidence to both these authorities [50 lever arch files].

Mr Powell formally complained to the IPCC in October 2004 about the Chief Constable’s failure to disseminate this information, without delay, to the GMC after advising the Powells to complain to the GMC. Following years of applications and appeals from Mr Powell, regarding this complaint, the IPCC in July 2008, did not uphold the complaint because the decision to disseminate this evidence falls under the heading of direction and control.

In July 2003 CPS Essex [Mr John Bell] investigated Mr Powell’s complaint against the local CPS and did so under the directions of the Director of Public Prosecutions. In 1996 the local CPS had given Dyfed Powys Police advice that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the doctors, but did so, in the absence of (a) an adequate police investigation and (b) Police Section 9 Statements from the Powells and all the potential prosecution witnesses – these statements, as confirmed by the subsequent independent police investigation, are crucial in the CPS’s consideration of the available evidence and therefore no such advice should have been given in their absence. Furthermore, the CPS had advised Dyfed Powys Police to investigate manslaughter on 3 separate occasions, which had been ignored. The local CPS also claimed at the time that the police had conducted a thorough investigation and that no stone had been left unturned, which is contrary to the subsequent finding of ‘institutional incompetence’ against the police. The CPS solicitors involved in the complaint were Mr J D M Hughes and Mr S A Rowlands. This complaint was not upheld.

When Mr Powell challenged the flawed findings of CPS Essex, with cogent evidence, the letter was forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who informed Mr Powell “in the absence of fresh issues, further correspondence from you on this matter will be filed without response.”

In April 2004, following a three-week inquest, which was spread over a three-month period, because of tactical adjournments by the doctors’ representatives, an inquest jury found that Robbie had died of ‘natural causes aggravated by neglect’. It was reported in the local press that the inquest had been ‘reduced to a circus’ and the article headed 'I promise to tell those bits of the truth which put me in a good light'.

The First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales, Rhodri Morgan, is currently considering, following submissions by Mr Nick Bourne AM, as to whether the Robbie Powell case warrants a Public/Assembly Inquiry and has been considering this issue now for almost 9 years. However, when in opposition, in his capacity as Shadow Health Minister, Mr Morgan fully supported the Powells and wrote copious letters on their behalf. Mr Morgan actually stated the following on HTV Wales News on 11th December 1996:

"I think the history of the Powell case is so serious now, in terms of the cover up that was involved afterwards, that I think nothing less than an independent inquiry is probably ever going to really get to the truth."

The First Minister has refused to agree, or otherwise, to make a decision on the public inquiry using the ongoing GMC investigation as the sole reason for not doing so.

In May 2008, five years after the complaint was made to the GMC, the Powells were officially informed that their complaint would not proceed because of a five-year rule, which was introduced by the GMC in November 2002. The Powells had been informed by the GMC formally in 1995 and subsequently that there was no time limit in making a complaint and therefore waited until they had secured evidence to the criminal standard of proof against the GPs. Furthermore, the GMC was fully aware of the Powells’ pending complaint and that the senior investigating officer, from an English Police Force, appointed to review the Powell case in 2000, had spoken with and met with officials of the GMC outlining the weight of evidence against the doctors involved in Robbie’s death and the post death cover up. In the light of this information the GMC failed to inform the Powells and/or the police that a time limit would be introduced in November 2002 thus denying the Powells the opportunity to complain in advance of the introduction of this rule.

As mentioned above, the 5-year rule was introduced by the GMC in November 2002, which is 7 months before Mr Powell made his formal complaint. It is therefore very difficult to understand why it took the GMC 5 years to consider the 5-year rule, in a case where they were fully aware had not been criminally prosecuted partly because of the passage of time even though the passage of time had clearly been caused by the GPs’ dishonesty. Surely, the GMC should have addressed this rule immediately on receipt of the complaint. What was the point of the GMC waiting 3 years to receive the full police files from Dyfed Powys Police and approximately 2 years to consider the overwhelming evidence of the GPs’criminal activity, if this evidence was going to be ignored and the 5-year rule engaged in May 2008? The reason is, in my view, that the GMC had given Dyfed Powys Police and the CPS an undertaking in March 2003 to investigate the doctors if they were not prosecuted. For the GMC to then refuse to investigate the complaint in 2003 because of the 5-year rule may have resulted in the CPS reconsidering their position.

In the light of the GMC’s decision not to proceed with the Powells’ complaint the First Minister informed Mr Nick Bourne AM that he was taking legal advice regarding the public inquiry. However, when it came to Mr Morgan’s attention in August 2008 that Action Against Medical Accidents [AvMA] was the claimant in an application to judicially review the GMC’s decision not to investigate Robbie’s case he then delayed his decision until the application has been heard notwithstanding the GMC can only address the care provided by the doctors, or the lack of it, and the allegations regarding the forgery of Robbie’s medical records. The GMC will not, and cannot, investigate the systemic failures and post death cover-up by several authorities.

On the 24th February 2009 AvMA was granted permission to judicially review the GMC’s decision not to investigate Mr Powell’s complaint.

The Powells’ 19-year fight for justice continues.

Copyright (c) Liz Miller


angus said...

Bloody awful story, bloody GMC,bloody police and bloody "powers that be"

Dr. Liz Miller said...

yes - the GMC and other regulatory bodies would do well to have more tolerance for human nature, and zero tolerance for this kind of "medicine".

peter a. said...

Disputes like these don't seem to be serving anyone. If we want human beings to behave better, is the law the best way to press for that to happen? I'm sure lawyers and judges would say that it is.

We have this ability to get bogged down in tons of paper over some things

There ought to be ways of improving the way health services interact with such emergencies, which don't involve threats and, in fact, actively encourage doctors to be open about weaknesses.