The Attorney General has announced today that he will conduct a review of cases where Professor David Southall, a consultant paediatrician, was involved as a prosecution witness.
The General Medical Council is conducting a hearing into Professor Southall’s conduct, part of which relates to the holding of medical records. Professor Southall is alleged to have kept separate files on some patients, including files on cases which may subsequently have been subject of criminal prosecutions, and where proper disclosure of medical records may not have been made.
In a written ministerial statement to the House of Lords today, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, said: “It is said that Professor Southall kept so-called ‘special case’ files containing original medical records relating to his patients that were not also kept on the child’s proper hospital file. Concerns have been raised that in some of those cases criminal proceedings may have been taken but the existence of the files not revealed, resulting in their not being disclosed as part of the prosecution process. I share those concerns.
“What is not clear at this stage is the nature and extent of the failure of disclosure, if such it be. I have therefore decided that I will conduct an assessment of the cases where Professor Southall was instructed as a prosecution witness to determine if any ‘special case’ files existed in any cases involving criminal proceedings. Once that assessment has been completed, I will decide what, if any, further review is required.”
There are believed to be around 4,450 ‘special files’, and the review will go back 10 years. As a result of work previously done on Sudden Infant Death cases, cases where children died and Professor Southall appeared as a witness have already been identified.
The review will be conducted by the Attorney General’s Office with assistance from the Crown Prosecution Service.
Notes to editors
1. Where doctors are engaged as prosecution witnesses, they are obliged to record, retain and reveal all their material, either in statement or report form as evidence or, if not evidence, in an index of unused material.
2. Professor Southall is a consultant paediatrician and was professor at Keele University. He practised from the Royal Brompton hospital in London and North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary in Stoke-on-Trent. Professor Southall has co-operated fully with the GMC enquiry.
3. The GMC hearing into Professor Southall is adjourned until November this year.
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