QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
Royal Courts of Justice
B e f o r e :
(Sitting as a Judge of the High Court)
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF DR PAULA ANASTASIA LANNAS||(CLAIMANT)|
|THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT||(DEFENDANT)|
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(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
MISS N LIEVEN (instructed by Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT
Crown Copyright ©
"The Home Office Policy Advisory Board for Forensic Pathology (hereafter referred to as the 'Board') was instituted in 1991 to oversee the provision of forensic pathology services in England and Wales to establish best practice for the speciality, and to encourage the development of the profession through the training of practitioners and the support of academic departments and relevant research."
"Forensic pathologists whose name appears on the Home Office Register are required to take part in a regular audit programme which will be administered by the Board. They should also take any appropriate steps to ensure their knowledge of the speciality is kept up-to-date.
At 2.3 in the final sentence, one reads:
"Retention of the practitioner's name on the Register will be subject to a successful outcome of the regular audit procedure."
Then one reads:
"Procedure for routine audits of the pathologist's work.
"4.1 The Board will constitute a Quality Assurance and Scientific Standards Committee, the membership of which will consist of four senior and experienced forensic pathologists with the addition of a legally qualified member. Any three of the pathologist members will constitute a quorum.
"4.2 No member of the [Committee] may serve simultaneously on the Accreditation and Appointments Committee.
"4.4 Audits will take into consideration the standard of the individual pathologist's practical input in attending scenes of crime, performing autopsies, producing the relevant reports and assisting in the preparation of the case. Reports will also be sought on other aspects of a practitioner's work such as his performance as an expert witness in court.
"4.5 Audits of the way in which the pathologist provides a service and of his performance as an expert witness in court will normally take place during regular reviews held at specified intervals. The Audit of scientific standards will normally be ongoing; the results of such audits will be taken into account in the reviews."
Returning to paragraph 4.1, it is accepted that it is possible to ensure that the members of the Quality Assurance and Scientific Standards Committee are independent so far as the particular audit they are considering may be concerned. There is no reason why there should not be people appointed ad hoc to that Committee in order to deal with a particular case. If a forensic pathologist's work proves unsatisfactory, he can be made the subject of a disciplinary proceeding. Under the heading, "Suspension from the Home Office register", paragraph 9.1 of the Procedures Document states:
"If the Pathologist's performance, as assessed on an examination of further samples of his work, does not improve within a reasonable period of time consideration may be given to suspension or termination of his accreditation and registration on the Home Office Register. In such an instance the code of practice applying to disciplinary procedures will be invoked and the pathologist will be so informed as soon as is practicable."
"I wrote to you on 18 April to explain that the Policy Advisory Board for Forensic Pathology had commenced a new programme of scientific audit. Included with the letter was a short paper explaining the way in which the audit would be conducted. Participation in the audit programme is a requirement for pathologists registered with the Home Office."
"I wrote to you on 12 October seeking copies of autopsy reports for audit and I am extremely grateful to those practitioners who have already sent me material for scrutiny. I now write to request those who have not yet responded to do so as soon as possible.
"If your surname begins with 'J' onwards, will you please send me copies of reports relating to the first six cases commencing on or after 1 January 2001, for which you were called out by the police and subsequently carried out autopsies.
"Material for audit should be sent to me by 15 November 2002 . . .
"It is hoped that in calling for cases dating from the beginning of 2001 sufficient time will have elapsed for the investigations to have been completed. However, if you consider that the inclusion of any particular case in your selection might give rise to potential difficulty because the case is still 'live' (or for any other reason) please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss the matter.
"If you cannot comply with this request for reports for any other reasons -- because, for example, you have not carried out six call-outs for the police, I should again be grateful if you would please contact me. The Policy Advisory Board regards participation in audit as essential, and the Board's Constitution states that:
'Retention of the practitioner's name on the Register will be subject to a successful outcome of the regular audit procedure'."
Pausing there, it is apparent that the requirement for the period to be covered by the reports is not inflexible.
"Dear Dr Lannas
"As you will be aware, the 2002-03 round of audit of casework undertaken by Home Office registered forensic pathologists is under way, and I wrote to you on 12 October and again on 8 November to request copies of autopsy reports for scrutiny. To date I have had no reply from you, and accordingly, I should be most grateful if you could please explain your position.
"The material required for the current audit is reports relating to the first six cases, undertaken on or after 1 January 2001 for which you were called out by the police and in which you subsequently carried out an autopsy. I recognise that you may not have undertaken any work for the police early in 2001. If that is the situation, but you have such cases dating from a different part of the year, please let me know. It may be that we can come to some arrangement to accept cases which do not precisely meet the criteria set by the Scientific Standards Committee of the Policy Advisory Board for Forensic Pathology.
"I should remind you that the Constitution requires every pathologist whose name appears on the Home Office Register to submit reports for audit as and when required by the Board. Accordingly, I should be most grateful for a reply by 1 January 2003, and I look forward to hearing from you."
As I have said, this was a letter addressed personally to Dr Lannas whereas the two others were addressed to all forensic pathologists.
"Dear Dr Rothwell
"I am writing with reference to our telephone conversation on Thursday 19 December, to our exchange of emails that day and in reference to letters which you wrote to my client, Dr Lannas, dated 12 October, 8 November and 16 December 2002.
"It is a matter of considerable concern and some surprise that, despite your central involvement in the matter of the Home Office Inquiry concerning my client and in respect of the subsequent General Medical Council proceedings, you are apparently unaware of the true position about my client's professional activities.
"You and Professor Crane have written a significant series of letters to various authorities since 1997. You were instrumental in the setting up of the Home Office Inquiry which later failed and there have been numerous releases of information to the media, presumably from the Home Office, both before and after the Inquiry dealing with the issues arising from it.
"Against that background it is almost impossible to conceive that Dr Lannas could have done any work for the police in recent years and even more difficult to think that you could have been in any doubt about the matter.
"As to the management of this current audit, my client is acutely aware of your failure to manage the previous audit so as to illicit all relevant information which instead emerged only at the Inquiry, often through our efforts on her behalf. Therefore in respect of the current audit would you please specify how you propose to run it, given 1) the conflicts of interest which exist between most members of the forensic pathologists list and Dr Lannas as a result of the Inquiry and the GMC performance proceedings and 2) the fact that audit material is disclosable and not privileged."