The Chair of the MSG and the doctor who was at the centre of a controversial political complaint process have criticised the investigation and findings of a panel which cleared the former Chief Minister of abusing parliamentary privilege.
Deputy Gavin St Pier’s naming of a local doctor in the States Chamber last April was found by a 3-2 majority of some of the island’s longest serving politicians to have been acceptable given the special privilege of parliamentarians which allows them to speak freely without fear or favour.
Now, Dr Sandie Bohin, the consultant paediatrician at the Medical Specialist Group who was personally named, has said her “reputation has been tarnished by the wholly misleading comments".
“I remain utterly devastated by [his] reckless actions which have caused me both personal distress and harm but more importantly have harmed the services which work so hard to protect vulnerable children on island."
She also described the length of time taken from the filing of the complaint to its conclusion – some 18 months – as “indefensible”.
Meanwhile, Dr Steve Evans, Chair of the MSG, called into question the democratic process used.
“We profoundly disagree with the conclusion."
The fact the privileges panel found the comments had caused distress to Dr Bohin “underscores the dangerous precedent established by the majority conclusion” and is at odds with the concept that “power comes with responsibility”, he added.
It was accepted that politicians should be allowed to raise issues which they consider to be in the public interest, but Dr Evans suggested the “name and shame” was “reckless”, “unfair”, and “irresponsible”.
Pictured: Dr Steve Evans of the MSG has responded to the findings of the Privileges Panel.
In his speech, Deputy St Pier was attempting to convince States members to debate an annual report on the regulation and revalidation of doctors and used a personal experience of failed care for one of his children, for which his family lodged a complaint against the MSG, to make his case.
“It is only by debating this annual report that this Assembly can begin the process of holding the Responsible Officer at Health & Social Care and the Medical Specialist Group, through their publicly funded contract, and the specialist paediatric team and the safeguarding lead and the doctor in question, Sandie Bohin, to account,” he said.
Dr Bohin argued her being named could’ve led those listening or reading to believe that she was personally involved in the care of his child, whereas her role was as the Named Doctor for Safeguarding at the time.
“Deputy St Pier went far beyond raising an issue of public importance and took the wholly unnecessary step of naming a specific doctor, Dr Bohin, and of doing so in the context of several very serious allegations. Those allegations were misleading and fundamentally wrong in fact,” Dr Evans said.
“It was inevitable that, by doing so, she would be linked to the allegations made, with all the consequences that ensued, and which were wholly foreseeable.”
Dr Evans said the effects on the local medical profession and safeguarding services has been profound.
“His actions caused immediate and serious damage to the trust that is so important to the functioning of the medical profession and safeguarding service in Guernsey…. we can only hope that his actions have not deterred any children in need from seeking help.”
Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache was highly critical of the naming of Dr Bohin.
The majority view of the privileges panel, comprising the chair Deputy John Gollop, and Deputies Lyndon Trott and Peter Roffey, was that “a member who is genuinely pursuing what they regarded as being the public interest cannot be said to behaving with malice or irresponsibly".
Reprimanding someone for using the privilege that is afforded to them would be dangerous and a “disaster” to democracy, they added.
“We may not have acted in the way he did but it must be possible for parliamentarians to cause upset and distress in pursuit of what they regard as the wider public interest.”
Dr Evans and Dr Bohin found comfort in the dissenting opinion reached by Deputies Peter Ferbrache and David De Lisle, which was articulated by the former in a 31-page appendix to the panels’ report.
“I can see no reason for him to name Dr Bohin in the circumstances which he did. I also regard, when considering the content and context of all of his speech, that a right-minded reasonable person would be likely to conclude that Dr Bohin was responsible for at least a number of the ills/errors/faults he referred to in his remarks to the States,” Deputy Ferbrache wrote.
He also highlighted representations made by multiple medical stakeholders during the investigation including the damage in confidence to reputations and institutions, the fear of doctors to carry out their duties, and the recruitment of staff into critical positions.
A separate Code of Conduct complaint into the comments, lodged by Dr Bohin, the MSG, and the British Medical Association, is ongoing with the final outcome understood to be months away.
Deputy St Pier has repeatedly said he is confident he will be cleared of breaching States rules.
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