Friday 23 March 2018

'Bloodgate' physio appeals

Former Harlequins physiotherapist Steph Brennan, who was struck off for his part in the "Bloodgate" rugby controversy, today launched a High Court appeal to save his career.

The Health Professions Council (HPC) was accused of unlawfully imposing a "one strike and you are out for good" approach to the top physio's case.

With Brennan and his wife listening in court, counsel Paul Harris said it was accepted his conduct had merited a sanction, but not one of such "gross severity".

Mr Harris said the sanction was the result of flawed reasoning by the HPC's conduct and competence committee, which disbarred Brennan from practising last September.

Brennan had been due to start work with the RFU as an England physio until his role in the systematic use of fake blood capsules during matches was exposed.

After being banned from rugby for two years, he carried on working in private practice, but the striking-off order means his career is in ruins, unless today's legal challenge at the High Court in London is successful.

Brennan helped fabricate a blood injury to winger Tom Williams during Harlequins' Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster at Twickenham Stoop in April 2009.

He admitted five instances of faking blood injuries, the first of which happened during Harlequins' 2005-06 season.

On three occasions this was for player welfare, while Brennan said the fourth was to get an unnamed player in a key position on to the pitch following a sin-binning of a team-mate.

Today Mr Harris told Mr Justice Ouseley that "it could not possibly have been proportionate for the conduct committee to have effectively adopted a 'one strike and you are out for good' approach".

Mr Harris argued: "This case does not even come close to that severe sanction.

"We do say that Mr Brennan does merit sanction, but the issue here is the gross severity of one strike and you are out for life. It is a sanction of last resort."

The conduct committee panel's ruling said: "The dishonesty ... continued over a number of years and ended not as a result of his own volition, but only because of the player's (Tom Williams') subsequent admission.

"The behaviour indulged in by Mr Brennan was dishonest, premeditated and continued over a considerable period of time.

"While the panel acknowledges that the incident on April 12, 2009, was instigated by Dean Richards, by that date Mr Brennan had been offered the job with the England team and could have resisted any pressure put on him."

Deciding to make an example of Brennan, the panel added: "It is the sanction ... necessary for the public and other professionals to understand that behaviour of this sort is unacceptable."

Press Association

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