'Hearsay evidence' ban in doctor's abuse case

An internationally renowned children's heart specialist won a High Court action yesterday to prevent hearsay evidence being used against him in a case involving allegations of child abuse.

Professor Philipp Bonhoeffer, a paediatric cardiologist who worked at London's Great Ormond Street hospital, was accused of sexually abusing children in Kenya where he travelled to do medical charity work. He strongly denies the allegations.

The General Medical Council was due to hear the case last October when lawyers challenged a decision to consider hearsay evidence from a Kenyan man now in his late 20s who claimed he had been sexually abused by Professor Bonhoeffer when in his early teens. The panel had been advised by police that it would be unsafe for the man to attend the GMC in person because of the risk of his suffering reprisals in Kenya, where homosexual acts are illegal, even though the man himself was prepared to fly to London to testify.

Two High Court judges yesterday quashed the panel's decision to admit the hearsay evidence. They said it breached Professor Bonhoeffer's right to a fair hearing. However, the General Medical Council said the case remained open. It is likely that it will now investigate bringing the witness over to the UK for the hearing.

Professor Bonhoeffer's employment with Great Ormond Street ended after the allegations came to light in 2008.

Professor Bonhoeffer said: “I am pleased with the outcome of this judicial review.”