Expert cleared over abuse claims
A consultant paediatrician who exaggerated claims of child abuse has been cleared of wrongdoing by the General Medical Council (GMC). In a 2002 libel trial, Dr Camille De San Lazaro admitted overstating the accounts of abuse, compiled for a report into a Newcastle nursery. Two nursery nurses successfully sued the authors of the report for libel. The GMC ruled that, although some of her work was irresponsible, she should not be struck off. Dr Lazaro, who works for the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, had denied charges of serious professional conduct at the fitness to practice panel in Manchester. Christopher Lillie and Dawn Reed, who worked at the city’s Shieldfield Nursery, were accused of sexual offences, but the charges were dropped at the direction of a judge at Newcastle Crown Court in 1994. Following the acquittals, the council commissioned the report – entitled Abuse in Early Years, to carry out a review of the nursery. When it was published, both Mr Lillie and Ms Reed were wrongly “named and shamed” as alleged paedophiles. ‘No basis’ They successfully sued the report’s authors at the High Court in 2002, and were each awarded £200,000. Under cross-examination in the libel trial Dr Lazaro admitted her accounts of abuse had been “overstated, exaggerated and emotive”. The hearing also heard she had written that drugs had “almost certainly” been involved in abuse. In the 2002 trial Mr Justice Eady said to her: “You had no proper basis to say that to them, did you?” She replied: “I agree.” The GMC found that during some interviews with children who had been allegedly abused, her actions were inappropriate, irresponsible and unprofessional, but did not “cross the threshold” into serious professional misconduct. Dr Lazaro received an OBE in 1999 for services in the care of sexually abused children.