Psychiatrist faces sanction over ‘misleading and inaccurate’ report on sacked Ministry of Justice man
By Helen McArdle
February 14, 2019
Dr Jane McLennan faces being suspended for acting dishonestly when she knowingly produced an “inaccurate and misleading” report on the man, known only as Mr A, following a consultation in August 2014.
A fitness to practises tribunal found that she falsely claimed that he had cursed throughout the one hour 48 minute evaluation, told her that he kept taped conversations with “girning” customers while working as a call handler at the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) in Glasgow, and that he “felt like hitting people at work”.
Dr McLennan, an experienced old age psychiatrist based at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, went on to give evidence under oath at Mr A’s employment tribunal in January 2015 where she “maintained her report was accurate when she knew it was not”.
Her misconduct only came to light because Mr A, who remains unemployed, had secretly recorded the consultation on his mobile phone and later reported her to the General Medical Council (GMC), after several failed attempts to persuade the police or prosecutors in Scotland to investigate on grounds of perjury.
The audio recording was pivotal in proving that key sections of Dr McLennan’s report were false, but it was only entered into evidence following strenuous opposition from her solicitors who insisted it was “of poor quality” and tried to have the case thrown out after branding Mr A a conspiracy theorist.
The Medical Practitioners’ Tribunal Service (MPTS) rejected their arguments, describing the former Ministry of Justice (MoJ) employee as a “reliable witness”.
In its determination on the case, the MPTS said: “Dr McLennan’s actions breached a fundamental tenet of the medical profession, namely the requirement to act with honesty and integrity.
“Dr McLennan’s integrity was further damaged by the fact that she then gave evidence at an Employment Tribunal which was dishonest…[the tribunal] considered that fellow professionals would find Dr McLennan’s actions deplorable.”
In addressing a possible motive for compiling a report which she knew to be untrue, the MPTS said it appeared Dr McLennan “had taken a dislike to Mr A”. In evidence she said she felt intimidated and bullied by him, and that he reminded her of her father, with whom she had a difficult relationship.
Expert witnesses have a legal duty to the court, not to the client who hires them, to give honest testimony. Dr McLennan stressed that she understood her obligations and cited a previous case where “her duty to the court overrode her obligation to her client”.
Dr McLennan had been hired by the MoJ in 2014 to carry out a psychiatric evaluation of Mr A, who was pursuing a disability discrimination claim against his former employers at CICA – the criminal injuries compensation arm of the MoJ.
The former calls handler had been dismissed for gross misconduct in May 2013, but claimed the complaints against him had been fabricated by colleagues and managers who had victimised him for whistleblowing over alleged breaches in health and safety, data protection, and medical assessments.
He said he had become sick with depression, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic tension headaches as a direct result of his employment at CICA.
However, his unfair dismissal claim was rejected and in August 2016 he abandoned an appeal.
In her report to his employment tribunal, Dr McLennan claimed Mr A had told her that “he had never needed any help or assistance because of his conditions and they did not disable him in any way”. However, the MPTS said it could find “no evidence that Mr A said this”, either in the audio recording or from Dr McLennan’s own notes.
In its determination, the tribunal service said: “Dr McLennan’s report had the potential to have a significant impact on Mr A, by misleading the Employment Tribunal in determining his claim for unfair dismissal.
“It will also have been very difficult and frustrating for Mr A to have read Dr McLennan’s misleading report.”
It described her conduct as “unacceptable and unprofessional”, but stressed that the psychiatrist has “not accepted any wrongdoing”.
It noted that the 57-year-old is “held in high esteem” and has had “a very long and blameless career”, with no prior sanctions, but that at the time of the consultation with Mr A she was under pressure professionally and personally.
Her sick father was staying with her, she was sleep-deprived, working full-time in the NHS, and completing around three reports a week as part of her private practice as an expert witness.
She was “poorly prepared” for the interview with Mr A, took few notes, and did not compile the report until three weeks later. The MPTS said it accepted Dr McLennan “was not in the best mental state” at the time, but that that did not explain why her report “includes a high level of detail including a number of direct quotes” which were invented.
The tribunal concluded that Dr McLennan’s fitness to practise is impaired as a result of dishonesty, and will decide in March how to sanction her.
It is likely she will face at least a temporary suspension.