Noakes' lawyers considering legal action over 'guilty' HPCSA statement

2016-10-29 06:46
Professor Tim Noakes (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Professor Tim Noakes (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - The legal team of Professor Tim Noakes is considering legal action against the Health Professions Council South Africa (HPCSA) over a media statement sent claiming that the scientist had been found guilty of unprofessional  misconduct.

"The object of the HPCSA is to protect the profession," his lawyer Adam Pike told News24 on Friday.

"For them to say that he had been found guilty of unprofessional conduct goes to the very foundation of his reputation."

Noakes, an A1 rated scientist, was upset by the statement, Pike said.

"It goes to the foundation of his reputation, which is his integrity, professionalism and the ethical manner in which he conducts and reports his research."

The HPCSA on Friday issued an apology and retracted its statement, admitting to jumping the gun on the verdict over Noakes, whom Pike said was aggrieved by the council's announcement.

Twitter advice

The respected sports scientist was called before a professional conduct committee after being accused of giving unconventional advice.

Noakes - whose book The Real Meal Revolution promotes a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet - was charged after the former president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Claire Julsing-Strydom, lodged a complaint against him.

It was prompted by a tweet Noakes sent to a Pippa Leenstra after she asked him for advice on feeding babies and on breastfeeding.

Her tweet read: "@ProfTimNoakes @SalCreed is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies?? [sic]"

Noakes advised her to wean her child onto LCHF foods, which he described as "real" foods.

His tweet read: "Baby doesn't eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to ween [sic] baby onto LCHF."

Process 'undermined'

He recently testified during his hearing and called international witnesses in defence of his case.

The matter was adjourned this week for argument in April 2017.

Pike said he and his team do not doubt the honour of the members of the committee, but that the HPCSA had "undermined the entire process".

"It makes us ask if someone within the HPCSA bureaucracy had already come to a conclusion."

Upon the conclusion of Noakes' witnesses testimony on Wednesday, there was a congenial atmosphere in the hearing venue, Pike said.

"Everyone shook hands, knowing that they had done the best that they could."

Committee to deliberate

He said his team had received messages of surprise, from as far as Colorado in the US, that Noakes had seemingly been found guilty.

The pro forma complainant would have until February 1 next year to file heads of argument. Noakes' legal team would have until February 22 next year to do the same. The pro forma complainant would then have until March 15 to file a reply to these heads.

The committee would deliberate on the issue and come to a decision between April 6 and 7 next year, the HPCSA said.

Judgment on the matter would be issued on April 21.

Noakes had argued during the hearing that his advice was anything but unconventional, quoting research from as far back as the 1800s, before the boom in obesity rates.

He said the HPCSA had treated him unfairly and not given him the opportunity to defend himself in a preliminary trial.

He maintained throughout his hearing that there was nothing dangerous about the LCHF lifestyle.

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