Doctor who spied on 15-year-old girl in the shower struck off following voyeurism conviction
On 28 February 2019, Dr Jonathan Fielden was convicted in Luton Crown Court of one count of voyeurism contrary to section 67(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. A person is held to commit an act of voyeurism if, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, they observe another person doing a private act. At the time of the offence, Dr Fielden was the Medical Director of University College London Hospitals and was transitioning to a new role as National Director of Specialised Commissioning and Deputy National Medical Director of NHS England.
In Dr Fielden's case, in 2016 he had spied down a hole of a light fixture into the ceiling of the complainant showering in the room below. It is understood that he was able to see through the hole because a pipe in the flooring had been dislodged. The complainant, some months later, informed her school counsellor about the incident. The school subsequently notified the police and Dr Fielden was suspended from employment by NHS England. Dr Fielden later plead guilty to the offence, having admitted to “spying” on the Victim for 15 - 20 seconds, doing so for his own sexual gratification. He was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment, suspended for one year. He was also ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register for the next seven years, complete 150 hours of unpaid work and complete a 30-day rehabilitation course. A Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
In December 2016, Dr Fielden self-reported his arrest by the police to the General Medical Council (‘GMC’), the regulatory body for doctors. In light of this conviction the GMC brought fitness to practise proceedings before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (‘the Tribunal’) against Dr Fielden on the allegation that his fitness to practise was impaired because of his conviction. The Tribunal had to consider whether Dr Fielden's fitness to practise was impaired by reason of his conviction.
It was the GMC's case before the Tribunal that “any form of sexually motivated conviction by a member of the medical profession is likely to be considered serious and undermines public confidence in the medical profession.” It was further submitted that “doctors must be trustworthy and conduct themselves appropriately in their public and private lives as trust and integrity are irreplaceable components of the obligations of a doctor.” It was the GMC's case that Dr Fielden's conduct was further aggravated by the fact that the Complainant was only a child and the psychological impact that the offence had upon her.
In response to the GMC's submissions, it was Dr Fielden's case that the offence was “an isolated and momentary incident.” It was submitted that he “did not avert his eyes quickly enough” with the only explanation for this being for his own sexual gratification.
The Tribunal, when considering the matter, adopted a two-stage process. It was firstly clarified that Dr Fielden met the qualifying circumstances under the Medical Act 1983, that a person’s fitness to practise will be regarded as “impaired” by reason of having committed a criminal offence. Having satisfied this, the Tribunal then had to consider if Dr Fielden's fitness to practise is impaired today, taking into account factors such as the likelihood of repetition of the offence and his demonstrable insight into the offence. In considering this second stage, the Tribunal referred to the guidance set out in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant  EWHC 927 (Admin).
The Tribunal was of the view that, “….given the nature of the offence, it was very difficult to remediate. [It] further noted that it had been presented with little evidence of any attempt by Dr Fielden to remediate the offence and considered that his insight as to the impact of the offence on others was limited.”
Ultimately the Tribunal concluded that Dr Fielden’s conduct breached the overarching objectives of the GMC the Medical Act 1983, namely:-
- To protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of the public;
- To promote and maintain public confidence in the medical profession; and
- To promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of the profession.
In all the circumstances it was concluded by the Tribunal that Dr Fielden failed to maintain the high standards of behaviour expected of a medical practitioner and his fitness to practise was impaired by reason of his conviction. The Tribunal held that “failing to make a finding of impairment in such circumstances would be an abrogation of the Tribunal’s duty to protect the public and the wider public interest.”
Following the Tribunal’s finding that Dr Fielden’s fitness to practise was impaired, the GMC argued that the only appropriate sanction was erasure. Erasure removes Dr Fielden’s name from the medical register, meaning he would no longer be able to continue to practise as a doctor. Dr Fielden submitted he instead should be suspended, as “a period of suspension would enable a good doctor the ability to continue in his work.”
The Tribunal, in exercising its own judgment and considering the aggravating factors of the offence, determined that the only appropriate sanction was erasure. This was decided on the basis that such sanction would promote and maintain public confidence in the medical profession and uphold proper professional standards.
A copy of the Tribunal’s judgment can be found here.
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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.