'Misconduct' doctor to return to work

A DOCTOR who accused the husband of solicitor Sally Clark of murdering their two children has won his bid to be allowed to return to child protection work.

Elliot Furniss

A DOCTOR who accused the husband of solicitor Sally Clark of murdering their two children has won his bid to be allowed to return to child protection work.

Mrs Clark, 42, was convicted in 1999 of double murder but cleared by the Court of Appeal four years later.

She died of natural causes at her home in Hatfield Peverel near Chelmsford, last March.

Dr David Southall was found guilty of serious professional misconduct after he claimed it was “beyond reasonable doubt” that Steve Clark had killed his sons.

The paediatrician made the assertion after he watched an interview that Mr Clark gave to Channel 4's Dispatches programme in April 2000.

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For the past four years he was banned from engaging in child protection work, but a General Medical Council Fitness to Practise Panel has revoked the restriction with immediate effect.

Andrew Reid, chairman of the panel, said: “You have acknowledged that you have learnt a lot from these proceedings and that it will impact on all the work you do.

“The panel has determined that, although the Professional Conduct Committee considered your actions serious in 2004, the panel today, in the light of the evidence given to it by eminent paediatricians and your expressions of regret and remorse, considers that a finding of impairment is not justified.”

Speaking after the hearing in Manchester, Dr Southall said he was pleased with the decision.

He said: “I would like to thank my paediatric colleagues, especially those who came to give evidence on my behalf.”

Dr Southall, 60, told the panel last month he still thought he was correct in raising the alarm over Mr Clark but admitted the language he used in the accusation was “injudicious”.

He believed Mr Clark attempted to suffocate his eldest son, Christopher, in a London hotel room in 1996 following his description in the interview about how the child suffered a nose bleed and breathing difficulties.

Dr Southall wrote a report on the Clarks after talking to social workers and police officers involved in the case.

He said he owed an apology to the late Mrs Clark for his assumption that if her husband had smothered Christopher he must also have killed their second son, Harry, who died 13 months later.

Christopher died nine days after the hotel room incident in December 1996 aged 11 weeks in the sole charge of Mrs Clark.

The couple's second son, Harry, died at home in January 1998 aged eight weeks.

Dr Southall worked as a consultant paediatrician at North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent from 1992 and is currently involved in paediatric work for a charity in Africa and Asia.

He was struck off by the GMC last December after he was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in a separate case in which he was said to have accused a grieving mother of murdering her 10-year-old son.

The High Court overturned that suspension pending the outcome of an appeal which will be heard at the High Court in January next year.

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