Thursday, 16 January 2014

They walk among us

Earlier today I became aware of an entertaining thread within the Law Society Gazette discussion group on LinkedIn under the title Cuts in legal aid are in the best interest of the taxpayer: especially in criminal law.

The author supports his proclamation with the complaint that “Criminal law Solicitors and Barristers have had it good for so long.” He implores his readers to “Stop the attack on Mr Grayling. He’s only acting in the best interest of the tax payer.”

Now, the purpose of this post is not to consider the merits of these opinions. As anyone who hasn’t yet seen it may imagine, plenty of debate followed. Broadly speaking, these opening shots generate a measure of antipathy with me but that’s of limited relevance. I’m in the Voltaire (or Evelyn Hall) school of thought.

But I am bothered about the truth behind the protagonist’s seemingly impressive credentials. Readers can see for themselves the full resume of Doctor Mustapha Tahir, “GP academic”, former lecturer, research panel member etc.

In a CV as long as your arm claiming distinctions, prizes and royal approval he notes amongst his special interests “Medical Law and Ethics” and “Medical Malpractice”.

How ironic that, according to information posted by one contributor during the debate, the learned doctor was handed a jail term last summer and is suspended by the General Medical Council.

According to the report at KentOnline, Tahir was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for forging prescriptions for drugs to sell them abroad. The judge told him:

“You put forward an utterly dishonest defence which suggested you had been framed by one or more of your partners. This was a persistent and dishonest course of conduct.”

The LinkedIn debate continued with no direct protest from the doctor about these revelations. Instead he concentrates on encouraging what he considers to be “cerebral” contributions to discussion of the idea that Mr Grayling’s attack on the criminal legal aid is long overdue and nothing short of deserved.

So, what does it matter?

In the narrow context of the press report one observer says:

“I think it is disgusting that a GP, a person of trust abused his position in such a way…prison is the best place for him…I hope he has been permanently struck off and will never practise again..”

I agree.

In a broader context, you have to reflect first on the fact that these credentials would not have come to light but for the time and initiative of one inquisitive reader of the LinkedIn discussion.

Why, again, should it matter that a “person of trust” disappoints us in this fashion, as long as he has done his time and paid the penalty?

Surely nobody would, for example, have any desire to instruct a dishonest person with an appearance of professional integrity and published expertise, with a belief that criminal legal aid rates are luxuriously high, prepared to make money by defrauding our embattled health service, to prepare a medico-legal report?

Who could possibly have an interest in commissioning false, self-serving ‘evidence’ at a rock-bottom price?

Ah….wait a minute.

What about the botox expert retained to examine my client with the rotator cuff tear to his shoulders? (The abominable Dr Botox)

Or the GP “with an interest in” obstetrics and gynaecology who reported on another client’s cruciate knee ligament injury? (Crash and capture)

Or the mystery practitioner in Fun Boy Three ?


I wonder who will (truly) be controlling the selection of “experts” appointed to the new whiplash panels the MOJ is now proposing…