A brush with the law

When to tell the GDC about legal proceedings

Car keys and a whisky glass
  • Date: 19 May 2023
  • |
  • 4 minute read

THE expectation that dentists and other healthcare professionals should act honestly and with integrity in their professional roles is a given. But it’s important to remember that the same standards also apply to their personal lives.

MDDUS has found that one particular area that can often “catch out” clinicians is the need to inform their regulatory body if they are subject to criminal or regulatory proceedings (from another regulatory body) – whether in the UK or abroad.

The General Dental Council (GDC) takes this issue seriously and expects registrants to inform them “without delay”. Failure to do so could put your registration at risk.

But what exactly do regulators need to know about, and when is it okay not to inform them?

Act swiftly

The first step is not to panic. Contact MDDUS for advice as soon as possible if you think you may need to tell your regulator about any kind of criminal proceedings – even if this relates to circumstances beyond your professional practice.

This will allow us to provide the most appropriate advice for your specific circumstances so that we can work to achieve the best possible outcome for you. Don’t be tempted to delay taking action. Incidents that occur in your personal life leading to a caution or conviction are of interest to the regulators to ensure this will not impact your fitness to practise or bring the profession into disrepute.

When to report

The GDC requires registrants to report without delay if, anywhere in the world, you:

  • are found guilty of a criminal offence
  • are charged with a criminal offence
  • receive a conditional discharge for an offence
  • formally admit to committing a criminal offence, for example by accepting a caution (including a conditional caution)
  • accept the option of paying a penalty notice for a disorder offence (in England and Wales), a penalty notice under the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 or a fixed penalty notice under the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004.
  • receive a formal adult warning (in Scotland).

Scenarios that MDDUS has assisted members with and may need to be reported can include:

  • receiving a fine for deliberately and repeatedly evading a train fare
  • accepting a caution for anti-social behaviour, for example a domestic dispute with a neighbour that becomes heated
  • a road traffic criminal conviction in the UK or when driving abroad on holiday.

When not to report

The GDC has confirmed that registrants do not need to tell them about:

  • a fixed penalty notice for a road traffic offence
  • a fixed penalty notice issued by local authorities (for example, for offences such as dog fouling or graffiti)
  • an anti-social behaviour, preventative justice, or other social order.

Access current GDC guidelines at Guidance on reporting criminal proceedings (PDF).

The GDC recently undertook a consultation on plans to update its guidance on reporting matters to the regulator. It said the proposed new guidance will be easier to understand and MDDUS will be monitoring the new requirements for dental professionals.

Contractual obligations

Healthcare professionals will be expected to follow any reporting requirements at their employing or contracting organisation in relation to criminal proceedings. MDDUS can offer more detailed advice on this area.

More generally, clinicians are also likely to have contractual obligations with their employer that might include reference to acting with honesty and integrity. It is important to familiarise yourself with these and any other relevant policies.


  • Remember the expectations on you as a professional to act with honesty and integrity in your personal life.
  • Contact MDDUS for advice as soon as possible if you think you may need to inform your regulator of criminal proceedings.
  • Be sure to comply with guidance (PDF) on reporting criminal proceedings from the GDC.
  • Check any contractual obligations that may make reference to acting with honesty and integrity to avoid potential for dismissal when an issue may arise.
  • Read this MDDUS advice article on probity pitfalls in dental practice.

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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