The Dental Professionals Hearings Service is changing the way that admissions made by dental professionals are handled at the preliminary stage of a fitness to practise hearing.
Admissions at the Preliminary Stage – What is changing?
Dental professionals will be asked whether they admit to any of the charges set out for the fitness to practise hearing at the end of the preliminary stage. Where an admission is made, the Practice Committee will proceed on the basis that the facts have been proved.
Before this change, evidence in relation to all charges were required.
The changes being made will come into effect on 31 October, and will affect those who are subject to a fitness to practise hearing. Any hearings opened prior to 31 October, will not be subject to the new processes.
Preliminary stage of a fitness to practise hearing
The Dental Professionals Hearings Service’s (DPHS) Practice Committee conducts a hearing in four stages:
- the preliminary stage
- the factual inquiry
- submissions by the parties
- the determination of the case.
During the preliminary stage, the Practice Committee will deal with preliminary matters, including amendments to the charges.
Before the General Dental Council (GDC) case presenter opens the GDC’s case (i.e. the factual inquiry), the Practice Committee will ask the registrant (or their legal representative) to indicate whether any of the heads of charge are admitted (in whole or in part).
In respect of the heads of charge that are admitted, no further factual inquiry will be required because these heads of charge will be taken as proved.
The factual inquiry commences when the GDC case presenter opens the case and proceeds to present evidence to prove the heads of charge for the charges that remain in dispute.
The burden is on the GDC to prove the factual allegations on the balance of probabilities (the civil standard of proof). The GDC has to present evidence to satisfy the committee that it was ‘more likely than not’ that an alleged matter or event occurred.
GDC’s Guidance on admissions made at the preliminary stage of fitness to practise hearings sets out the new process for the making and determination of admissions
- At the preliminary stage, after any other preliminary matters have been dealt with, the Practice Committee will ask the registrant (or the registrant’s representative), whether they admit any of the heads of charge.
- Following the admission of any of the heads of charge, the Practice Committee proceeds to determine those facts based on the admission(s). In other words, this will result in the facts being found proved on the basis of the admission(s) without the need to adduce any further evidence.
- The hearing will then move to the factual inquiry stage (in accordance with Rule 19) and the GDC case presenter will open the GDC’s case and proceed to present evidence in relation to the remainder of the heads of charge that remain in dispute.
It is worth noting that, in some rare instances, the Practice Committee may determine that a registrant’s admissions are not found proved, for instance if they are concerned that any admissions are being made under duress or if a registrant is unrepresented and they satisfy themselves that a registrant has not understood the basis for, or the consequences of the admission.
What are the implications for Dental Professionals?
Dental Professionals need to very carefully consider their approach and evidence in relation to GDC fitness to practise hearings. This change means that any admission will, result in a charge found proved, and the committee will move to the next stage. Charges admitted will not be open to scrutiny.
This means Dental Professionals need to very carefully consider their approach and should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Throughout the GDC investigation and a fitness to practise hearing, Dental Professionals have the right to be legally represented.
If you are not legally represented, the onus will entirely be on you to prepare your case, deal with preliminary matters and all the other committee stages.
The GDC’s guidance makes clear that:
The independent legal adviser’s role is to assist the committee and advise them on any questions of law that arise throughout the hearing. The independent legal adviser cannot provide you, or any other parties to the proceedings, with any legal advice.
Kings View Barristers
With over 30 years combined experience, Kings View Chambers have established itself as one of the best when it comes to fitness to practise defence. We fully understand that fitness to practise defence is not merely about processes and procedures. We also understand that we are working with people who are anxious and worried about what investigations might mean for them, their professions and the reputations.
We are proud to be rated ‘excellent’ by our clients. Our commitment to client care is genuine in both seeking the very best outcomes for our clients, but also ensuring we do what we can to support them through the process.
Disclaimer: This article is for guidance purposes only. Kings View Chambers accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken, or not taken, in relation to this article. You should seek the appropriate legal advice having regard to your own particular circumstances.