Noakes trial: HPCSA breached his rights, says lawyer

Prof Tim Noakes

By Marika Sboros

Pretoria advocate Joan Adams. Picture: ROB TATE

The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) is leaving no stone unturned in fighting its case against world-famous scientist Prof Tim Noakes. It also appears to believe it should leave no right of his unbreached as well.

That’s according to evidence presented yesterday during the February 2016 hearing. Pretoria advocate Joan Adams. Adams is chair of the HPCSA’s Professional Conduct Committee hearing the charge against Noakes.

She launched a scathing attack on the HPCSA and one of its committees for a flagrant breach of  Noakes’s constitutional rights.

The charge against him follows a complaint that Johannesburg dietitian Claire Julsing Strydom lodged with the HPCSA in February 2014. That was for a single tweet to a breastfeeding mother. In it,  Noakes said that good first foods for infants are low-carb, high-fat (LCHF). In other words, Noakes suggested meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy and vegetables.

Ironically, that’s the same advice that Strydom now gives. It’s also advice that the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA) dishes out. Strydom was ADSA president when she first complained to the HPCSA about Noakes.

Silence on reasons

The hearing heard that University of the Witwatersrand bioethics professor Ames Dhai chaired the HPCSA Preliminary Inquiry Committee investigating Strydom’s complaint. The committee decided to charge Noakes. However, Dhai has consistently refused to provide reasons in writing, either to the HPCSA or Noakes’ lawyers.

Adams said that this breached Noakes’ constitutional rights under two acts: PAJA (Promotion of Administrative Justice Act) and PAIA (Protection of Access to Information Act).

She said that her committee had a duty to try Noakes fairly. Consequently, Adams ruled that the HPCSA registrar should be requested to provide him with the reasons for the decision of Dhai’s Preliminary Committee of Inquiry to charge him. She also ruled that Noakes should receive all documentation related to that decision by 4pm Friday, February 12, 2016.

Adams said that her committee did not have the power to order the HPCSA to “extract” the reasons from Dhai. However, it would be “a travesty of justice” if the HPCSA denied the request.

Noakes’ legal team sought the ruling from Adams on Monday after leading evidence pointing to irregularities.  The evidence is in emailed correspondence between Dhai and her committee members.

Breach of Noakes’ rights

It shows that they failed to allow Noakes to see and respond to all the evidence the committee had before being charged, despite their legal obligation to do so.

Click here to read: Noakes in his own words: ‘Why I choose to go on trial’

Adams said that the preliminary inquiry’s committee’s decision “defied logic”. It was “unfathomable” that the committee would have made an informed decision without “cogent reasons”, she said.  She also dismissed HPCSA advocate Ajay Boopchand’s suggestion that the only and appropriate forum for Noakes to appeal to was the High Court.

Adams said that the HPCSA legal department had resorted to “extreme measures” to force Dhai to reveal those reasons. HPCSA advocate Meshak Mapholisa had even threatened Dhai with a subpoena to force her to reveal the information.

Adams described this action as “brave” for someone in his position. She commended Mapholisa for a “display of utmost integrity under circumstances that were trying and traumatic”.

Adams said that the HPCSA’s own regulations required that its preliminary committee of inquiry give written reasons for decisions.

If a preliminary committee of inquiry decided a charge was warranted, Adams asked “why on earth would anyone think that fair play was now out the window”? The committee could not unilaterally decide to withhold reasons for its decisions.

HPCSA regulations also gave accused persons the right to see all relevant information before being charged, she said.

The hearing continues.


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