Controversial child expert struck off for 'attitude problem'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A consultant paediatrician with an international reputation in child protection was struck off the medical register yesterday after the General Medical Council decided he had abused his position by accusing a mother of drugging and murdering her 10-year-old son.

Professor David Southall, of North Staffordshire hospital, Stoke on Trent, was found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the GMC, which said he had a "deep-seated attitudinal problem".

The decision provoked protests from professional colleagues who described it as a "travesty". Patricia Hamilton, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics, said the college was "saddened and disappointed" by the verdict and "very concerned" that it would deter paediatricians and social workers working with children.

Professor Southall, 59, has been a leading figure in the detection of child abuse for more than a decade. He pioneered the use of covert video surveillance to detect parents smothering their children and was awarded an OBE for his charitable work with children in Bosnia.

But he was a controversial figure who pushed the boundaries in his efforts to use medicine to help others. Three years ago, he was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and suspended from working with children after he accused the husband of Sally Clark of murdering their two children.

Mrs Clark was jailed for life in 1999 for the murders before being released on appeal four years later in one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in recent times. She died in March. Professor Southall intervened after seeing Mr Clark interviewed on television about the case in 2000.

In the new case, Professor Southall denied making the accusation of murder against the mother, identified only as Mrs M, and was supported by a senior social worker who was present throughout his interview. But colleagues said the GMC had chosen to ignore their evidence in favour of that of the mother, whose son hanged himself in 1996.

In its judgment, the GMC fitness to practise panel, chaired by Dr Jacqueline Mitton, said it was "particularly concerned by your lack of insight into the multiplicity of your failings over a long period."

After the ruling, Professor Southall said he was considering an appeal.

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