Updated: Aug 3
Sunil Abeyewickreme led the team at Gunnercooke LLP that represented Dr Helen Webberley in a successful High Court Appeal against a decision by a Medical Practitioners Tribunal.
Dr Helen Webberley is the founder of GenderGP, an online transgender clinic that has faced scrutiny from regulatory bodies in the UK. In 2021, she appeared before a Medical Practitioners' Tribunal, accused of failing to provide good clinical care to patients at her clinic. After 85 days, the tribunal cleared Dr Webberley of all but one allegation of misconduct. Nevertheless, they found her fitness to practise was impaired, and she was subsequently suspended from practising as a medical practitioner for two months.
Dr Webberley appealed the determination of the Medical Practitioners' Tribunal before the sanction could start, having sought legal advice from Sunil.
With Sunil's support, Dr Webberley's appeal was successful, and she was able to have the decision of the tribunal overturned. This was a significant victory for Dr Webberley, who has faced significant challenges due to her work with GenderGP.
Commenting on Mr Justice Jay's judgment, Sunil Abeyewickreme said: "I am delighted that the High Court has recognized the flaws in the MPT's decision-making process and that it has overturned the unjust and irrational decision to suspend Dr Webberley from the medical register for a period of two months. Dr Webberley is a dedicated and compassionate doctor who has made a significant contribution to the care of transgender young people. We are proud to have represented her and to have helped her to achieve this landmark victory."
The case has sparked a wider debate about the provision of gender identity services in the UK and the challenges faced by transgender individuals. Gunnercooke played an important role in this debate by providing legal representation to Dr Webberley and helping to secure her successful appeal.
Abeyewickreme has again demonstrated his unwavering commitment to justice when he acts for healthcare practitioners as demonstrated when representing Dr Helen Webberley in her successful High Court Appeal. The case has highlighted the challenges faced by transgender individuals in the UK and the importance of legal representation for doctors providing innovative medicine to marginalized communities.
Mr Justice Jay sitting in the Administrative Court of the High Court of Justice, King's Bench Division pronounced "The MPT's thinking was confused, clearly wrong in places and omitted reference to important evidence"
Whilst appeal courts have been rare to interfere with a panel's consideration of evidence and their determination of findings of fact, this judgment will give hope to registrants who may have concerns about the findings of fact determination. The judgment has significant implications for professionals and their regulatory bodies, as it reinforces the need for a careful and considered approach to their findings of fact, that have previously been very difficult to challenge.
Mr Justice Jay's judgment in this case is being hailed as a landmark decision that rebalances the law and sets new precedent in that regulatory bodies can be challenged on their consideration of evidence. This is a significant development in the appeal process for professionals.
Jamas Hodivala KC appeared with Sunil at the High Court on appeal.
Ian Stern KC with Sunil represented Dr Webberley at the 85-day hearing before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal
Tim Buley KC appeared with Sunil at the Administrative Court and before the Interim Orders Tribunal.
Jacqueline Carey KC advised in relation to the appeal that was lodged following the hand down of the determination of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal