In The News » Neurologist not guilty of professional misconduct and awarded costs

Neurologist not guilty of professional misconduct and awarded costs

In March 2017, the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) commenced proceedings against a neurologist in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for disciplinary findings and orders in relation to the alleged sexual abuse of a patient.

The neurologist denied the conduct and the matter proceeded to a Stage 1 hearing at the Tribunal.

The neurologist was then represented by different lawyers, who had been funded by his medical insurer. The Tribunal found the neurologist guilty of professional misconduct and unsatisfactory professional conduct. For more information, see: NSW neurologist guilty of sexual touching, 9News, 8 March 2018.

In April 2018, the neurologist then decided to change his lawyers and he engaged Hanna Legal to challenge the Tribunal’s decision.

On 1 June 2018, we instructed Terrence Lynch SC and Shahan Ahmed of counsel at a hearing at the Tribunal which challenged the lawfulness of the Tribunal to proceed to the legal competency of the Tribunal ’s previous order for a Stage 2 hearing to take place in circumstances where the Judge was not unavailable.

On 22 June 2018, the Tribunal handed down its decision, agreeing with our submission that section 52 of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 is inconsistent with and must give way to section 165C of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. To read the Tribunal’s decision, see: HCCC v Dowla (Jurisdiction Application) [2018] NSWCATOD 96. As a result, the matter was listed for a new Stage 1 hearing.

Hanna Legal instructing Peter Morrissey SC and Shahan Ahmed at our client’s new Stage 1 hearing. At the hearing, the complaining patient was cross-examined at length in relation to various matters including the inconsistencies that we had uncovered between her complaint to the HCCC and comments she had made to other medical practitioners. We also adduced a significant amount of fresh expert and lay evidence that we had obtained on behalf of our client.

On 26 July 2019, the Tribunal handed down its decision, ruling in our client’s favour in relation to the factual issues in dispute and declining to find our client guilty of professional misconduct. The Tribunal only found our client guilty of unsatisfactory conduct in relation to conduct that he had already admitted. To read the decision, see: HCCC v Dowla [2019] NSWCATOD 117. Our client’s registration was not suspended and he was able to continue practising medicine.

We then applied for the Tribunal to order that the HCCC pay our client’s legal costs, which was opposed by the HCCC.  After lengthy submissions, the Tribunal ruled in our favour, ordering that the HCCC pay most of our client’s legal costs.  To read the decision, see: HCCC v Dowla (No 2) [2019] NSWCATOD 156.