Child abduction conspirator brought in to advise doctors

Anger over GMC post for controversial campaigner linked to 50 complaints against paediatricians

A row has broken out after the General Medical Council recruited a woman convicted of conspiracy to abduct a child on to an expert group charged with producing child protection guidance for doctors.

Penny Mellor, from Wolverhampton, served eight months of an 18-month jail sentence after being found guilty of a "wicked conspiracy to abduct" a little girl in 1999. Mrs Mellor has been involved in more than 50 complaints against professionals working in child protection, accusing numerous doctors and nurses of misconduct.

The GMC was last night under growing criticism from respected paediatricians, just months after winning widespread praise for setting up the group.

This followed controversy involving a paediatrician, Dr David Southall, an expert on a condition formerly known as Münchhausen syndrome by proxy, in which a person causes injury or illness to another (often their child) to gain attention. Mrs Mellor, who describes herself as a campaigner and medico-legal researcher, has confirmed taking part in around 30 complaints against Dr Southall. The GMC had ruled that he be struck off the medical register but he successfully overturned this at appeal. Mrs Mellor has been investigated, but not charged, for criminal harassment against Dr Southall.

Child protection experts say they are dumbfounded at the decision to appoint Mrs Mellor, who they believe has contributed to an environment of fear among paediatricians, leading many to turn their backs on child protection work.

Mrs Mellor posted a letter on the British Medical Journal (BMJ) website announcing her membership, ahead of an official statement by the GMC. She declared: "I am sure this is going to cause a furore." She did not, however, turn up for the group's first meeting last week. The IoS has been told that some of the group's 13 other members, who include the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and Lord Justice Thorpe, were unaware of her appointment until then.

Following the revelation, the BMJ published an open letter from Professionals Against Child Abuse to the GMC chairman, Peter Rubin, saying: "We are astonished that you consider Mrs Mellor an appropriate person to contribute to the group, given that she has made false allegations against numerous doctors and nurses... in some cases wrecking their professional lives... led a hostile media campaign against internationally acclaimed paediatricians ... and created an environment in which doctors are now turning their backs on child protection work, for fear of being targeted."

The GMC refused to explain its decision to The IoS but its chief executive, Niall Dickson, told the BMJ that Mrs Mellor was included in order to give the group credibility and that it was important to hear all perspectives.

Two retired paediatricians and co-authors of the letter, Drs John Bridson and Nigel Speight, last night said the GMC had plenty of critics without criminal convictions to choose from, and Mrs Mellor's inclusion had diminished optimism about what the group would achieve. The new guidance to help doctors working in child protection is expected in 2011.

In his judgment at Newcastle Crown Court in 2002, Mr Justice Whitburn, said of Mrs Mellor: "What is unforgivable is the way in which you manipulated, for your own purposes, the genuine distress of the family... It is chilling to read... the effect of abduction upon that already emotionally damaged child... an abduction which cost others... their liberty."

Mrs Mellor could not be reached for comment, but in her BMJ letter she said she welcomed the opportunity to sit around the table with the RCPCH president and "get paediatricians to listen to the other side of the story".

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

    Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

    Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

    Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral