Success for Paul Harris QC in Final Bloodgate Appeal

19 May 2011

Paul Harris QC, after successfully arguing in the High Court last December that the striking-off order relating to Steph Brennan was defective for lack of reasoning, succeeded at the remittal before the Health Professions Council in persuading the Panel to reduce the severity of the sanction to a professional caution.

In April 2009 Steph Brennan ran onto a rugby pitch in his capacity as a professional physiotherapist for Harlequins RFC and gave a player a fake blood capsule in order to feign an injury. This notorious episode and its aftermath became known as “Bloodgate” and rocked the rugby world. Dean Richards, the team coach, was banned for three years from rugby. Wendy Chapman, the doctor who deliberately cut the player as part of the deceitful coverup of the false injury, was given a caution to lie on her professional record, but allowed to continue practising. Steph Brennan, however, was given a 2 year ban from rugby and struck off his professional register altogether.

Unable to continue his new appointment as physiotherapist for the England Rugby team, and indeed faced with an end to his career, Steph Brennan turned to a fresh legal team consisting of Paul Harris QC and Stephen Hornsby of Davenport Lyons in order to seek a more proportionate remedy.

Paul Harris QC argued successfully before the High Court that the striking off order was unnecessary in the circumstances to protect the public and, first on an interim basis, and then on a final basis, that order was set aside as disproportionate by the High Court. In January 2011 the matter of correct sanction was ordered to be remitted back to the professional body for physiotherapists, the Health Professions Council (HPC).

Yesterday in London, Paul Harris QC, in reliance on the High Court judgment and following a fresh hearing, succeeded in persuading the same Panel of the HPC who had struck Steph Brennan off the register in September 2010 that the proportionate remedy in the circumstances was not a striking off, nor even a period of suspension, but was instead a caution to lie on Steph Brennan’s professional record for a period of 5 years. In this way, the last leg of the unsavoury “Bloodgate” saga has finally been brought to a just conclusion.

Steph Brennan paid tribute to the performance of his Silk with the following words:

“From the minute I met Paul Harris I knew I had hired the right barrister. His personable, confident and professional demeanour was an immediate comfort during what was a very unsettled time. He provided a clear message of how he would like to take my case forward. As someone with no experience in legal matters this was a major relief to me.

I made some huge mistakes in my capacity as a Sports Physiotherapist. Before Paul’s help, these were going to mean the end of my career. I now have a second chance to make amends for these mistakes and to repay my profession for my stupidity. I will be eternally grateful to Paul for giving me this opportunity. I simply could not ask for anything more.”

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