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Is good character evidence and/or evidence of usual practice relevant and admissible at the unacceptable professional conduct stage? GOsC PCC say it can be and their former guidance is wrong.

Bankside Law (John Williams) recently represented an osteopath at the Professional Conduct Committee of the General Osteopathic Council. Another solicitor had represented our client at the facts stage of the proceedings and we took over the case. Evidence of good character and usual practice was submitted and we argued (through our barrister Jonathan Goldring) that it was both relevant and admissible at the UPC stage. GOsC through their barrister, argued it was not and referred to the then guidance on GOsC web site which stated that evidence of good character was never relevant at the UPC stage.

We were successful and the PCC found that in the circumstances of this case unacceptable professional conduct was not present. This meant that our client had no disciplinary finding, no entry on the GOsC web site and left the proceedings with an unblemished professional reputation. Our client was hugely relieved and extremely grateful to the replacement legal team at Bankside Law. GOsC have subsequently accepted that this evidence could be relevant and admissible, they have taken the guidance down from their web site pending it being re-written by external counsel. John Williams said –

“This was an important case, not just because it preserved the professional reputation of our client, but also because it provided another chance for Registrants generally, in the correct circumstances, to put forward evidence of good character and usual working practices at a stage at which it had previously been precluded.”

Our client commented:

"Mr Williams of Bankside Law took on my case from another firm of solicitors. I am an Osteopath and I feared the worst-case outcome following allegations made of UPC. From my first phone call with Mr Williams, when I was feeling discouraged and despondent, he took care of my case with close attention to the details, correct legal advice and encouragement every step of the way.

It was Mr Williams who recommended and co-ordinated with the experts for my case. It was my barrister Mr Jonathan Goldring who challenged the GOsC's Guidance that evidence of good character at the decision and sanction stage should not be admissible, and he won, which was so important in my case.

My complaint process was a long and very stressful two years and at the final Hearing, the Professional Conduct Committee did not consider the facts found proved amounted to UPC and the case was closed with no sanction imposed against me. From fearing the worst outcome and getting the best outcome was such a relief and I believe was only due to the expert legal knowledge and care by Mr Williams and his team. I will be forever grateful to Mr Williams and would wholeheartedly recommend Bankside Law for excellent legal representation."

 

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Investigation and subsequent Trial – Successful Defence

Bill Wilson successfully represented a Chartered Accountant in a criminal prosecution brought by the FCA. Five individuals were charged with a number of offences relating to the operation of a £1.4 million investment scheme involving the sale of shares by a Healthcare Company, ‘Symbiosis Healthcare Plc’. Charges ranged from publishing false and misleading statements, inducements and carrying on a regulated activity contrary to a general prohibition. The investigation took in excess of two years, encompassed various jurisdictions and resulted in over one million documents and numerous computers being seized. Bill’s client was the only one who was acquitted on all charges. He was employed by William Albert Securities Ltd, the corporate advisers to Symbiosis who organised the selling of the shares. Two defendants pleaded guilty at an early stage and the remaining two being convicted following trial. The trial lasted for 49 days at Southwark Crown Court. The FCA was assisted by a number of other law enforcement and government agencies, including the City of London Police.

Bill’s comments: "This was an extremely complex and paper intensive case. It was multi-jurisdictional and involved various share platforms across Europe. I advised from the outset and attended with my client during interviews under caution. Like most investigations which are at an early stage, it is always difficult to crystal-ball gaze but in this instance, it transpired that the statement provided at interview by my client, was so fundamental that it became the backbone for his acquittal at trial. I was extremely fortunate in being able to instruct two trial Counsel, Miss Jenny Goldring and Mr David McNeill, both of 5 St Andrews Hill who were immense in the amount of effort afforded to this case."

Client’s comments:

"Before my case with the FCA I had not even been inside a Court let alone a Trial. So, when the FCA instructed me to attend their premises with a solicitor for an interview under caution, I was almost certain I would be charged. I was in total shock and I had no idea what to do.

I was recommended by another solicitor to make contact with Bill. I vividly remember my first contact with Bill by telephone. His voice has that re-assuring quality about it. I knew straight away I was in good hands. Thereafter he was literally by my side throughout the most difficult time of my life, advising, instructing, supporting, encouraging and sustaining my will to defend myself.

I owe him and his handpicked legal team my life. I cannot thank him enough."

HMRC Investigation - Successful defence of Premier League Footballer and his Wife following arrest for alleged tax offences.

Bill Wilson and John Williams (respectively) represented a Premier League footballer and his wife who were arrested by the Special Casework Unit of HMRC on allegations of Fraud, Cheating the Public Revenue; Fraudulent Evasion of income tax; Fraudulent Evasion of VAT and Money Laundering. The arrest resulted in widespread publicity in the Press. It was alleged that the combined loss to the Revenue was calculated at £1.1 million. After substantial representations and detailed disclosure to HMRC over the following months, HMRC accepted that no charges would be preferred and the matter concluded with no further action.

General Medical Council – Successful reversal of decision to refer to a Fitness to Practice Hearing

Bill Wilson represented two Radiologists (Husband and Wife) who had both been referred to a Fitness to Practice Hearing (FtPH), after having been earlier represented by other lawyers who submitted Rule 7 responses. These were both rejected by Case Examiners and the matter was referred to a full Fitness to Practice Hearing scheduled to last for many weeks After careful consideration of the voluminous of papers, it became clear that the Case Examiners had not correctly interpreted certain data (PACS/RIS) which was pivotal to the allegations. Further detailed submissions were lodged on behalf of both Doctors which resulted in the GMC agreeing to conduct a Review under Rule 28 and consequently persuaded to conclude the matter with no further action.

Bill Wilson commented:

"It is always difficult to come on-board after other lawyers had been previously involved. The substance of the allegations involved very technical and complex data, which had to be considered in a very tight timeframe. Thankfully I was able to demonstrate that the Case Examiners had incorrectly understood the data and as a consequence was able to ‘right a wrong’ to spare both clients from what invariably would have been a very lengthy, costly and stressful hearing."

Our clients commented:

"We cannot thank Bill enough for the hard work he put into our case. He was able to grasp the complex facts which surround imaging very quickly and succinctly rectified the misunderstanding by Case Examiners. What a result! Without doubt this relieved a huge degree of pressure from both of us."

General Medical Council – Successful Restoration to Medical Register

Bill Wilson represented a Doctor before the GMC who had been erased from the Medical Register in March 2012, as a result of his fitness to practice having been impaired by reason of both misconduct and conviction. Dishonesty with denial was found to have occurred over a lengthy period between 2005 - 2010. Following significant and detailed representations the Tribunal determined that the applicant had now demonstrated full ‘Insight’ for his misconduct, was genuinely remorseful for his actions and had taken the necessary steps to remediate as far as possible. As a result, the Tribunal restored the Doctor to the Medical Register at first attempt, which is extremely unusual. Bill instructed Miss Mary O’Rourke QC, Old Square Chambers.

Bill commented: "As with all restoration cases, this was not a straightforward application but made much more difficult because of the time span over which the initial allegations to erase were founded. Learned Counsel, Miss Mary O’Rourke QC was, as always, extremely essential to have on one’s team."

Our client commented:

"Bill represented me on my GMC restoration case. Clearly, he has great experience in the healthcare sector and his expertise helped shape my case along the way. He’s been so kind, approachable, trustworthy, supportive of my vision and he was always there when I needed him. Nothing was too much trouble. I am very, very grateful to him. His communications were always timely, helpful and wise and his friendly comforting approach made everything seem a little bit easier, at one of the most stressful times in my life. I cannot thank him enough for his invaluable support. His professionalism and commitment to provide high quality service to his clients were well above my expectation and I would certainly recommend him to any members of my profession who may need his expertise."