Doctor who falsified clinical trials wins appeal over jail term

Co Down GP Hugh McGoldrick at court with his lawyer Kevin Winters. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

A CO Down GP who falsified clinical trials has won his appeal against immediate imprisonment.

Senior judges in Belfast ruled that the nine-month jail term imposed on Dr Hugh McGoldrick should instead be suspended for two years.

A £10,000 fine for making up results from tests on an insomnia drug is to remain in place.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan stressed their verdict was due to the impact on McGoldrick of having criminal proceedings hanging over his head for nearly eight years.

He confirmed: "Because of the delay and only because of the delay we consider we should interfere with the sentence."

In April the 59-year-old GP, of Crossgar Road East in Crossgar, admitted two charges of falsifying drug trials on patients with sleeping disorders.

The offences took place at his Pound Lane practice in Downpatrick.

Ten patients participated in the trials carried out during 2007-2008.

An urgent challenge was mounted in the Court of Appeal after the doctor was jailed at Downpatrick Crown Court last week.

Handcuffed and dressed in a suit, he was brought from the cells to hear his legal team argue that the prison term should be suspended.

They claimed the trial judge had failed to take into account a seven and a half year delay in the case as a mitigating factor.

Frank O'Donoghue QC emphasised McGoldrick's otherwise unblemished career and raised concerns about his health due to being kept behind bars.

"Two weeks in prison for this man is a very considerable jolt to his well-being," the barrister added.

Following submissions Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justice Weir and Madam Justice McBride, held that the offences merited immediate custody.

"The breach of trust here have the potential to undermine not just the validity of the trial but public confidence in the efficacy of such investigations," he said.

Although he emphasised the need for an element of deterrence in the sentence, the Lord Chief Justice also pointed to a requirement that cases should be dealt with quickly.

He held that the trial judge addressed the principal mitigating factor of delay.

"This case has hung over this man for a period of some seven and a half years," Sir Declan noted.

McGoldrick showed little emotion as it was confirmed that his prison sentence will now be suspended.

Outside court his solicitor, Kevin Winters, welcomed the ruling.

He said: "Sentencing in the courts is a difficult and complex exercise and that was clearly reflected in this ruling."

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