‘HPCSA playing with my client's rights’

By Renee Moodie Time of article published Feb 8, 2016

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Cape Town - The conduct of a preliminary committee into the issue of Professor Tim Noakes's professional conduct came under intense scrutiny on Monday morning.

Noakes is facing a charge of unprofessional conduct after he advised the mother of a young baby on Twitter to wean her child on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet (LCHF).

A committee of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is sitting at a conference centre in Rondebosch, Cape Town, to rule on the question. The current leg of the hearing is set to run until next week.

Michael van der Nest, attorney for Noakes, listed nine concerns that the legal team had about how the preliminary committee came to its decision that the sports scientist should be charged with unprofessional conduct.

Van der Nest took committee chairwoman Joan Adams through a lengthy reading of emails between people who had been members of the prelim committee (referred to throughout the morning as “prelim”).

These emails discussed, among other things, whether external senior counsel should be engaged to carry out the hearing, Van der Nest said.

The prelim committee made its decision that Noakes should be charged in September 2014, and it is Van der Nest's contention that the committee had no standing to make these interventions once it had finished its work in September.

He said the emails indicated that Professor Ames Dhai, the prelim chair, had tried to persuade that pro forma complainant (the HSPCA's representative in the person of Meshack Mapholisa) to engage external senior counsel to conduct the hearing.

He also pressed hard to be given the reasons why prelim had decided to charge Noakes and detailed the attempts that Noakes's legal team had made to obtain the reasons. They had finally been told by the HPCSA registrar to ask the current committee for a ruling.

Van der Nest asked Adams to rule that the reasons for the decision to charge Noakes should be supplied, and that the concerns listed be answered.

Advocate Ajay Bhoopchand, newly engaged to represent the pro forma complainant, responded by saying that Noakes's team should take the matter to the High Court. The committee had no power in terms of the regulations to rule on the doings of the prelim committee, he said.

He said the emails read out by Van der Nest were private, and that they should not have been read out in public.

Van der Nest responded by saying: “The HPCSA is playing with my client's rights. You are leading us up one path and then saying it is the wrong path.”

He said the team had been told by the registrar to approach the committee for a ruling, and yet it was now being told to go to the High Court.

Chairwoman Adams said the ruling the committee was being asked to make was an important one which would take some time to debate. She adjourned the hearing to 10am on Tuesday.


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