Doctor convicted of attacking his wife said he was 'brainwashed by men's groups like Fathers 4 Justice' after 'branding his brother-in-law a terrorist'

A doctor convicted of attacking his wife claimed he had been 'totally brainwashed' by men's groups like Fathers 4 Justice after branding his brother-in-law a terrorist, a medical tribunal was told.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 2:23 pm

Shashikant Vanmalidas Vaghela, who also said his estranged partner's solicitor could be part of a conspiracy to get him killed or jailed, was struck off for serious misconduct in 2011.

The ex-Blackpool medic, who qualified from the University of Baroda in 1985, has now gone before a panel in Manchester, where he admitted he had been in the wrong and apologised for his actions.

But the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) said his regret was "superficial at best" and threw out his application.

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Fathers 4 Justice during a superhero protest at the top of Blackpool Pleasure Beach's Big One rollercoaster in 2004. There is no suggestion Vaghela was involved (Picture: Mark Pearson/JPIMedia)

Vaghela, who attacked his wife in a car park in front of their young daughter as his marriage crumbled, was convicted of assault and failing to surrender to custody at the Blackpool and Fleetwood Magistrates' Court in 2006, the MPTS's report said.

An appeal against the former offence was dismissed, though the appeal against the latter was successful. A medical tribunal in 2008 ruled he failed to tell the General Medical Council (GMC) of the outcome, nor about his change of employer while his case was being investigated - specifically that he was working at a hospital in Scotland.

That amounted to misconduct, the panel said, suspending him for nine months.

Three years later, in 2011, another tribunal was held, and Vaghela was struck off after the panel ruled he made "false and distressing" accusations about his estranged wife's brother, who was supporting her through custody proceedings relating to her and Vaghela's children, and his family, between February 2007 and December 2008.

Fathers 4 Justice become well known for its high-profile stunts and protests

The brother, named only as 'Mr A', also worked in health care and discovered the claims while searching online for a research paper he had penned.

The panel said the accusations - which were described as 'outrageous', 'bizarre', 'extreme', and 'grave and shocking' - were posted on three websites set up in Vaghela's name and registered at his home address, and sent in letters to Mr A and his family members.

The claims "included, amongst others, that Mr A was involved in terrorism, money laundering, and child abuse", the report said.

After a police investigation, Vaghela was convicted of harassment at Sutton Coldfield Magistrates' Court in January 2009, and handed a restraining order.

While he later successfully appealed that conviction, Vaghela was ordered "to not make any mention or reference to Mr A, whether directly or indirectly, in any published, written, or electronic media including the internet", the report said.

"In spite of this, the 2011 panel found that on May 12, 2009, a further nine allegations about Mr A had been made on these websites which Dr Vaghela had set up, and it was satisfied that Dr Vaghela was responsible for posting the material on them and that he knew or ought to have known that they had been made," it said.

The panel also said accusations made about his wife's solicitor - including that he was urging his wife to "file a claim based on a fabricated case of domestic violence", that he had forged documents obtained by fraud in India, and that he "could be part of a wider conspiracy to get Dr Vaghela killed/imprisoned on the basis of a false claim of harassment" - were "false and malicious", the report said.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) "found no evidence to substantiate any of Dr Vaghela's claims", with the panel concluding "the accusations had been intended by Dr Vaghela to strike at the heart of [the solicitor's] professional integrity and to cause him distress".

Vaghela was also chastised for breaching patient confidentiality after his legal representative - acting on his instruction - handed the GMC the details of patients in India he had operated on and the procedures they had.

"The 2011 panel found that Dr Vaghela, who had practised in the UK for a number of years and therefore have been aware of his duties in this regard, had breached patient confidentiality," the report said.

"The 2011 panel was seriously concerned by Dr Vaghela's conduct, which it characterised as 'disgraceful', and which it noted 'caused real harm to others over a significant period of time'.

"It concluded that his integrity could not be relied upon and it regarded his misconduct as being fundamentally incompatible with continued registration as a medical practitioner.

"It therefore determined that Dr Vaghela's name should be erased from the medical register."

Vaghela appealed, with that being dismissed in 2013.

Now, after applying to have his name restored - which would allow him to work in medicine in the UK again - a new panel has convened.

Vaghela told it "that in the immediate aftermath of his marital breakdown he had been 'lonely and vulnerable' and had sought support from various 'men's organisations', such as, for example, 'Fathers 4 Justice'," the report said.

"His evidence was that the support from such groups had made him feel 'like a freedom fighter' and that he had been 'totally brainwashed'.

"He told the tribunal that he now recognises that he was responsible for his actions and that he should have apologised to Mr A.

"He told the tribunal that now, some seven or eight years later, he recognises that he 'was so cruel and so mean' by acting as he did.

"He told the tribunal that accepting his 'mistake' was a considerable hurdle and that in the past he had sought to minimise his actions and to blame others for them.

"Dr Vaghela's evidence was that he now accepts he was wrong and that, at the time of the 2011 hearing, he knew 'in his heart' that most of the allegations he made against Mr A were untrue."

Vaghela said he is no longer in touch with his wife or her brother, and is in a new relationship with a new family.

He said he has been working in India since being struck off in the UK, and intends to undertake an international project either in America, Europe, on Britain.

And he said there would be "no prospect of him repeating his misconduct".

But the panel said it was "concerned that throughout the 2011 hearing, which lasted 22 days, and on appeal to the High Court, Dr Vaghela maintained that the allegations he made against Mr A and [his wife's solicitor] were true when, by his own admission this tribunal, he knew at the latest by the time of the 2011 hearing that they were false", the report added.

"At no point did Dr Vaghela tell the 2011 panel that he now believed the allegations were not true. On the contrary, during the 2011 hearing he steadfastly maintained that the allegations against Mr A and [the solicitor] were true, and thereafter on appeal persisted in challenging the 2011 panel's findings.

"Dr Vaghela has not given this tribunal any satisfactory explanation why he did not say this to the 2011 panel or to the High Court in 2013, when he addressed the judge as well as his counsel, that he now believed the accusations were not true.

"In the tribunal's judgement, this shows a lack of probity and disregard of ethical standards amounting to a lack of integrity on Dr Vaghela's part, which Dr Vaghela has not begun to address.

"Dr Vaghela's evidence to this tribunal was, in effect, that he was unaware that once the appeal process had started the was able to change his position. The tribunal found this to be an unconvincing explanation.

"Moreover, this tribunal has seen no evidence to suggest that Dr Vaghela may have believed the allegations to be true at the time he made them. Dr Vaghela produced no evidence to the 2011 panel to substantiate any of the allegations, and he has produced none to this tribunal."

The panel said a reflective statement written by Vaghela "at first blush reads well".

It said: "Dr Vaghela says that with the benefit of hindsight the GMC were right to investigate his actions and the 2011 panel were right to find guilty of serious professional misconduct and to erase his name from the register.

"He takes full responsibility for his actions and says that he has no defence for his wrongdoings and no amount of mitigation can justify his actions and the impact to the victims.

"He apologises profusely for his actions towards Mr A, and in his oral evidence he offered an 'unconditional public apology'. He says that he has learnt a great lesson at the cost of great professional and personal loss which will not be forgotten for the rest of his life.

"He expresses sorrow and regret and says that he is ashamed of his conduct.

"These are powerful words but this tribunal has serious concerns about Dr Vaghela's insight and his apparent continuing inability to accept the findings of the 2011 panel. The tribunal was struck by Dr Vaghela's repeated oral evidence to the effect that his contesting the allegations before the 2011 panel had been as a result of him 'following his heart' and that the accusation against Mr A and [the solicitor] had 'not been borne out of malice'.

"This tribunal is of the opposite view."

It said it "considers Dr Vaghela's apologies and expressions of regret and remorse to be superficial at best" and said it did "not believe" he "has reflected on why it is important for doctors to be honest".

"Neither has he reflected on the importance of probity and trustworthiness in his role as a doctor."

The tribunal also noted concerns about the steps Vaghela has taken to "keep his medical knowledge and skills up to date".

He has continued to work as a cardiothoracic surgeon and has been to conferences, but the panel was worried about his generic medical skills, while his employment history in India "is unclear", with some "unexplained gaps and overlapping appointments".

The report added: "Given the concerns it has expressed about Dr Vaghela's current medical knowledge and skills, the tribunal is satisfied that the need to protect, promote, and maintain the health, safety, and well-being of the public would not be satisfied were it to restore Dr Vaghela's name to the medical register.

"Given the concerns it has about Dr Vaghela's insight, integrity, and his ongoing inability to accept the findings of the 2011 panel and the High Court, the tribunal is satisfied that the need to promote and maintain public confidence in the medical profession and the need to promote and maintain proper standards of conduct and behaviour of that profession would be undermined if it were to restore Dr Vaghela's name to the medical register."

A spokesman for Fathers 4 Justice commented: “We refute these bizarre and untrue allegations. We have no record of this individual, who has a history of making false allegations, of being involved with our respected campaign for equal parenting rights. If he had been in contact with us he would have known that we never condone, or encourage violence against any person - female or male.”

He continued: “Following this ruling we hope Mr Vaghela, accepts his appalling behaviour was completely wrong and without justification. We also hope he realises his actions were extremely damaging both to his ex-wife and his young-daughter and he now concentrates on getting whatever clinical support, or therapy he needs to turn his life around.”