R v Richardson [1998] 2 Cr App 200

OFFENCES AGAINST THE PERSON – CONSENT - FRAUD

Facts

The appellant, a registered dentist, had her licence to practice suspended by the General Dental Council in 1996 but continued to treat patients, whom she did not inform of the suspension. On this basis, the appellant was charged with six counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The judge at trial ruled against the defence submission that the patients treated by the appellant after her disqualification had consented to their respective procedures, noting that the fraud as to her credentials vitiated any such consent.

Issue

On appeal it was argued by counsel for the appellant that the judge at trial had erred in striking out the submission of the defence, in that not all deceptions amounted to fraud of a type that could vitiate consent; only those which spoke to the nature of the act itself or the identity of the person perpetrating the fraud were capable of doing so. It thus fell to be determined by the Court of Appeal whether a deception as to a person’s attributes, in this case their qualifications, would suffice to negative the consent of the deceived party.

Held

The Court of Appeal confirmed, allowing the appeal, that fraud only negatived consent in circumstances where the victim was deceived as to either the nature of the act performed or the identity of those performing it. It was noted that lesser forms of deception might suffice for a claim to damages in tort, however. Importantly, the Court held that the phrase ‘identity of the person’ did not extend to that person’s qualifications or attributes.