GDC acted ‘unlawfully’ using undercover operations
The General Dental Council (GDC) acted unlawfully by using undercover operations without reasonable justification.
The dental regulator has admitted to acting unlawfully after paying an undisclosed sum of damages to a clinical dental technician.
Dental Protection defended the technician and says this situation therefore raises ‘strong concerns’ for registrants.
‘The GDC targeting its own registrants without a sufficiently justified cause is extremely concerning for dentists,’ Raj Rattan, dental director at Dental Protection, says.
‘The use of an entirely contrived scenario about a sick pensioner in very difficult circumstances was designed to trigger an emotional response and also lure a registrant into acting outside of their scope. This is therefore hardly an ordinary opportunity for wrongdoing, and it is unfair and invasive.
‘Throughout this case, the GDC asserted that under-guise investigations are essential to carry out its statutory function. However, in an unprecedented step, it has now admitted acting unlawfully and has agreed paying damages to our member.
‘We have very strong concerns about the use of undercover investigators.
‘Dental professionals should be confident that any investigation into them is based on their real-life practice and interactions with others. Not on concocted situations with operatives actively seeking to gather evidence to use against them.’
The technician was the subject of an anonymous complaint to the GDC that he may be working without registration.
The GDC then instructed an under-guise operation. It created a fictitious scenario with two private investigators posing as relatives of ‘Evelyn’, an elderly relative needing dentures but too ill to attend in person.
The Interim Orders Committee concluded that any evidence from the investigation was flawed and unfair. And that the GDC Fitness to Practise Committee halted any further action on grounds of an abuse of process.
‘The General Dental Council has used undercover investigators in fitness to practise cases extremely rarely,’ General Dental Council executive director, fitness to practise, John Cullinane, says.
‘Where there is potential risk to the public, and where there is no other way to investigate a specific allegation that has been made, we will consider use of undercover approaches.
‘A robust process is in place to assess risk to public health, safety and wellbeing. This is designed to balance public protection with the rights of the individuals concerned.
‘We take this responsibility extremely seriously.’
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