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How to lodge an appeal to the High Court – A guide for Healthcare Professionals

19 Jan 2016

Fitness to practise decisions made by your regulator can have a serious impact on your career and your personal life. If you have a negative determination by your regulator regarding your fitness to practise, or you feel the sanction imposed was disproportionate, then you can lodge a High Court appeal.

Can anyone lodge a High Court appeal?

Most decisions made by a regulator can be automatically appealed to the High Court. The regulator should in their outcome letter confirm your right of appeal and the timeframe for lodging such an appeal.

What is the deadline for the High Court appeal to be lodged?

Appeals of decisions made by healthcare regulators need to be lodged with the High Court within 28 days. This is a time limit which is strictly adhered to.

What if I am out of time?

There is no discretion for the Judge to allow a High Court appeal which has been lodged out of time, unless exceptional circumstances exist. Recent case law demonstrates that this is tightly interpreted. Common excuses for appeals being lodged late, such as trying to raise fees or find a specialist lawyer, are highly unlikely to be regarded as an exceptional circumstance by the Court, particularly if the registrant leaves it towards the end of the 28 day period to commence their efforts.

Any application for a High Court appeal out of time needs to clearly address the reasons for the delay, together with corroborating evidence of the same.

Should I lodge a High Court appeal?

It is sensible to obtain legal advice before deciding whether you should lodge a High Court appeal. High Court appeals will only be successful if there are viable legal grounds that can be pursued. High Court Judges are loath to interfere with decisions made by regulators without good reason.

For your High Court appeal to be successful, it will need to be based on the Panel making an error in law, or failing to follow an appropriate procedure, or the level of sanction imposed being disproportionate to the facts of your case. Simply not liking the decision is not going to be sufficient to successfully win a High Court appeal.

Is there a downside to lodging a High Court appeal?

Lodging a High Court appeal is a lengthy and time consuming process. It involves a significant investment of effort. It also requires a court fee to be paid with the application.

Once a High Court appeal has been heard, the losing party is usually ordered to pay the costs of the winning party. The regulator’s legal fees are likely to be several thousand pounds. It is therefore worthwhile seeking legal advice on the merits of your appeal before this is lodged to enable you to make an informed decision on the risks involved in pursuing a High Court appeal.

What will a lawyer need to see to advise me on the merits of my High Court appeal?

To advise you on the merits of a High Court appeal, a lawyer will need to see the determination of the panel and the bundle of documents that were before the Panel. Ideally they will also need to see the transcripts of the hearing. These will often need to be requested from the regulator and may take several days to be provided.

If you are contemplating seeking advice on the merits of lodging a High Court appeal, you should start this process as soon as possible due to the amount of work involved within a tight deadline.

How do I lodge a High Court appeal?

The following needs to be lodged with the High Court by the 28 day deadline:

  • An N161 Form. This is the application form for the appeal and can be obtained at http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/n161-eng.pdf
  • A cheque for the court fee of £480. (This amount may vary from time to time);
  • Detailed grounds of appeal need to be prepared. Ideally these should be prepared by a lawyer, but the involvement of a lawyer is not obligatory;
  • An appropriately paginated and indexed bundle of documents that are relied on. This should include the determination being appealed, the original bundle, the transcripts of the hearing, any relevant legislation or case law and any further documentation being relied upon.
  • A skeleton argument, supplementing the grounds of appeal, setting out in detail the reasons for the appeal and any law being relied on, cross referenced to the paginated bundle, will also need to be lodged within 14 days of the application being lodged.

 

Will anyone help me with my High Court appeal?

Yes. At Richard Nelson LLP we have a team of experienced lawyers who regularly advise healthcare professionals regarding the merits of lodging a High Court appeal. We also have experience of presenting High Court appeals and will be happy to assist you.

If you are considering lodging a High Court appeal or would like more information on any of the issues raised in this article, please contact us today for urgent advice, or read our dedicated Fitness to Practise guide.

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