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Malicious allegations can amount to oppressive harassment, even if they can easily be rebutted

In Plavelil v Department of Public Prosecutions [2014] EWHC 736 (Admin), the Divisional Court considered an appeal by way of case stated (an appeal of a decision on the law) as to whether a report of misconduct made to a professional body (in this case, the General Medical Council), could be oppressive, and therefore amount to harassment of the person reported, if the reporter deliberately included matters that were untrue or irrelevant.

In November 2009, a fellow doctor T was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his father-in-law, Dr Abraham Plavelil.  He was subsequently charged and released on bail (but later acquitted).  Over the course of the following year, Dr Plavelil sent a series of faxes, with accompanying documents, to the General Medical Council (‘the GMC’).  In addition to informing the GMC of the charges against T, Dr Plavelil had made a number of other allegations about T which the Court found he knew to be untrue, or at least inaccurate or irrelevant.  These included suggestions that T had been in receipt of social security benefits and that he may have been suffering from HIV/AIDS.  Convicting Dr Plaveli, the Court found that his conduct had been oppressive and therefore unreasonable.  Appealing, Dr Plaveli submitted that this could not be the case, since the false allegations were easily rebuttable.  Rejecting the appeal, the Court of Appeal ruled that the fact that untrue malicious allegations could easily be rebutted could not possibly mean, as a matter of law, that they were not capable of being oppressive.


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