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CIMA’s Margaret May disciplinary findings quashed in court

CIMA’S LONG RUNNING dispute with a former council member Margaret May has come to an end with the disciplinary against May quashed.

In a court hearing last week, Judge Justice Stadlen overturned a CIMA ruling that had found May guilty of misconduct for disseminating a private and confidential letter from the institute’s chief executive Charles Tilley.

An earlier Appeal Committee held by CIMA, which exonerated May of a separate charge, had found she had broken its ethical code to have forwarded the information to other institute members without Tilley’s prior consent.

However, Justice Stadlen said that the committee had “erred” in finding May was in breach of confidentiality without considering whether there was confidential information in Tilley’s letter, and that the failure to identify whether the information was confidential when forwarded on to third parties was “flawed”.

“It is in my judgment unrealistic to disregard that error. Their failure to address the question, whether the letter contained confidential information so could not be forwarded to third parties, affected their conclusion that forwarding it was in breach of integrity,” he said.

In February 2010, May sent an email to five council members of CIMA, which was forwarded onto other members by one of the recipients, where she raised concerns about Tilley’s non-executive directorship at Great Ormond Street Hospital (pictured) following a Sunday Telegraph article on the Baby P whistleblower being “hounded out” of the hospital.

In her email she raised concerns that Tilley should resign his position at the hospital before CIMA was “caught in the fall-out”. Tilley subsequently sent her a letter as an email attachment headed “strictly private and confidential” asking that she “desist” from sending any further emails on the subject, lest they “could give rise to a course of action” against her.

May copied in the recipients of her original email and her response to Tilley. In this email she noted Tilley’s letter and claimed that she looked forward to hearing from him as to how they could mitigate any potential reputational damage to CIMA, following the Sunday Telegraph article.

CIMA originally found May to have “failed to act with integrity and professionalism” for forwarding the information, though this was later overturned in an appeal tribunal in March last year when her associated reprimand payment was also reduced to £10,000 from £55,000.

However, the appeal committee upheld the tribunal’s previous ruling in relation to disseminating private information. The committee also made the point that there were other avenues in which May could have pursued her concerns and that she could have spoken to Tilley. In last week’s ruling, Justice Stadlen agreed this could be true, but the decision to forward on the email was not necessarily evidence of a lack of integrity or a lack of straightforward behaviour.

“It might have been done out of irritation, or even hostility or as an aggressive act, but none of those states of mind necessarily involves dishonesty or a lack of integrity,” he said.

He added: “In my judgment the appeal committee’s finding that May acted in breach of integrity was flawed and that she was in breach of confidentiality duty must be quashed.”

May said: “Although I risked all in bringing the judicial review, as I would have been obliged to pay CIMA’s costs had I lost, it was crucial, in my mind, not just to clear my name, but to ensure that council did not continue to be cowed in its duties, to the detriment of CIMA.”

Since the ruling CIMA said it will quash the disciplinary and is awaiting the court’s decision on which costs will be paid to May.

A statement from CIMA said: “Certainly none of the independent conduct committees, nor the court, have made any criticism of CIMA or of its disciplinary processes.

“We did nothing improper in ensuring that the allegations of misconduct made were properly examined. Each stage was in the hands of an independent committee, with independent legal advice, working to independent processes in accordance with the public interest, and chaired by independent chairmen.”  

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