Home » Ruling against Just Stop Oil doctor alarms BMA

Ruling against Just Stop Oil doctor alarms BMA

The British Medical Association (BMA) has said it is “very concerned” by a tribunal’s finding that a doctor who was arrested after peacefully participating in Just Stop Oil protests had committed professional misconduct.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service ruled Dr Sarah Benn’s fitness to practise was impaired and said it must consider whether a sanction should be imposed on her registration.

The General Medical Council (GMC), which referred the case, said the hearing was convened due to the fact her actions at Kingsbury oil terminal in Warwickshire broke the law and resulted in her imprisonment.

But Dr Emma Runswick, BMA deputy chair of council, said there was “no possible public or patient interest” in such circumstances for proceedings where potential sanctions included the removal of a doctor’s licence.

Addressing the tribunal’s findings, Dr Runswick said the BMA was concerned Dr Benn’s registration as a doctor could be threatened for taking part in peaceful protests relating to the climate change emergency.

She said: “Climate change has been declared the biggest potential health crisis in the world by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The reality is that cases such as this risk adding to the sense of fear doctors hold about the GMC and the medical practitioner tribunals.

“We hope that simple common sense will prevail in this case, as maintaining the high standards and good reputation of the medical profession will not be progressed by taking action against those taking part in peaceful climate change action.”

The tribunal related in total to three protests Just Stop Oil conducted outside the terminal on 26 April 2022, 4 May 2022, and 14 September 2022.

An injunction had previously been granted against people participating in climate change protests in the locality.

A high court judge sentenced Dr Benn to eight days on remand in custody for the events of 26 April and 4 May 2022, after she failed to answer her bail on 4 May and instead attended a protest at the terminal.

On 14 September, Dr Benn was arrested along with 51 others after obstructing a private access road, preventing vehicle access in and out of the terminal.

For that, she received a 32-day prison sentence.

Dr Benn told the hearing the British Medical Journal had called on governments to act urgently on climate, especially those in wealthier countries such as the UK.

Dr Runswick said the BMA would be formally responding to current GMC rules on procedure, stating: “[This] offers a unique opportunity to consider automatic referrals to tribunals in such cases and specifically whether the rules are appropriate where the context is peaceful protest.”