In Gupta v General Medical Council [2020] EWHC 38 (Admin), the Court struck out a doctor’s appeal on the basis that it had been brought out of time.

Dr Gupta, a consultant obstetrician, pleaded guilty in the Crown Court to two counts of possessing extreme pornography and one count of possessing a prohibited image of a child.  A Medical Practitioners Tribunal erased Dr Gupta’s name from the register.   The panel’s determination was sent to Dr Gupta by a letter dated 5 August 2019.  The letter stated that deemed service would be 7 August and the deadline for appealing was 4 September. 

On 4 September, Dr Gupta attempted to file a notice of appeal with the Court by email, but the Court rejected it, because fee bearing applications have to be filed in hard copy with the relevant fee or with an application for remission of the fee.  Dr Gupta’s appellant’s notice was properly issued by the Court on 10 September 2019.  On 11 September, the GMC notified Dr Gupta that, in the GMC’s view, his appeal was out of time. 

On the hearing of the appeal, the Court noted that section 40(4) Medical Act 1983 prescribes a statutory time limit of 28 days within which a registrant must bring their appeal, beginning with the date on which notification of the decision is served.  The Court also noted the decision of the Court of Appeal in R (Adesina) v Nursing and Midwifery Council (2013), in which it was held that the Court retains a discretion to extend the time limit for appealing, but that discretion must only be used “in exceptional circumstances” and where the appellant

“personally has done all he can to bring [the appeal] timeously”.  The Court was also referred to a number of cases which demonstrated the strictness with which the Courts have applied the Adesina test.

The Court agreed that Dr Gupta had failed to bring his appeal in time.  It also held that Dr Gupta’s case was not one of those rare and exceptional cases in which it would be proper to extend the time limit.  He had attempted to file a document that was not in the proper format by a means (email) that was not allowed by the rules.  The fact that Dr Gupta was a litigant in person, that he had lost his job and that the proceedings had taken its toll on him did not justify the extension of the time limit.

Accordingly, the Court struck out Dr Gupta’s appeal. The Court also noted that, had the appeal been in time, it would have dismissed it on the merits too.  In the circumstances, erasure was realistically the only appropriate sanction that could have been imposed.

This article is part of our regular professional regulatory newsletter, read other articles in the August 2020 edition here.