Podiatrist at appeal court

Mark Russell
Mark Russell
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A podiatrist who has challenged a conviction for misuse of title has had his case heard in the appeal court.

Mark Russell was prosecuted in November for an offence of intent to deceive by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). He was fined £270 and ordered to pay prosecution costs which totalled more than £6,000.

Mr Russell pleaded guilty to the charge, not realising it contained the element of intent to deceive – an element he has now successfully appealed at the Old Bailey in London.

An appeal judge ruled on Wednesday that the wording in the charge could have multiple meanings, so the case has been sent back to magistrates.

If it chooses to, the HCPC can re-prosecute, but this time Mr Russell, 52, will plead not guilty.

He said: “It’s up to them. If they decide to go back to magistrates and hold a trial, they have to prove that I intended to deceive.

“I am really pleased with the outcome of the appeal, it was a good day for me.

“Our appeal, in legal terms, was an application to vacate a plea – in other words, we were inviting the court to accept a plea of not guilty on the basis the plea at magistrates was equivocal. That means that when I pleaded guilty on November 11, I did so in the belief that the charge did not include an essential ingredient of the legislation – the intent to deceive.

“The sentence, fine and costs have been set aside. We have applied for a defence costs order, which is under consideration.”

Mr Russell, of Westby Road, St Annes, has been a registered podiatrist for more than 30 years, but took himself off the register to highlight what he says is a major flaw in his profession.

He said his actions were in protest against the HCPC’s failure to protect patients from clinicians who have been struck off for misconduct.

The HCPC registers all chiropodists and podiatists as ‘protected titles’, which means anyone qualified to work as such must be registered.

But people working as foot health specialists or podologists do not need to register, meaning there is no check on their qualifications or practicing history.

As soon as he deregistered, Mr Russell said he contacted the HCPC to inform them of his position, but heard nothing back.

He regularly reminded them of his unregistered status, while still practicing in St Annes.

The HCPC declined to comment while the case was ongoing.