- Dr Hafeez-Ur Rehman Awan, 44, spoke to officer pretending to be a schoolgirl
- The GP engaged in 'sexually motivated' chat over several days in January 2016
- He was suspended by MPT for nine months for misconduct in November last year
- Case reached High Court as GMC challenged decision, but appeal was rejected
A GP who was caught trying to groom a '13-year-old girl' in an internet chat room has not been struck off after a judge ruled he can carry on working as a medic.
Dr Hafeez-Ur Rehman Awan, 44, engaged in a 'sexually motivated' chat with a police officer pretending to be a schoolgirl called Sophia over several days in January 2016.
During the exchanges the doctor, then practising in Leeds and Wakefield, was told of her age but continued the chat, telling her he was in bed, sending her kisses and asking for her number.
He was reported to the General Medical Council and, in November last year, was suspended by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPT) for nine months for misconduct.
The case reached the High Court as the GMC challenged the decision, arguing that a mere suspension was too soft for Dr Awan's serious misconduct.
But Dr Awan was cleared to return to practice after senior judge Mr Justice Mostyn threw out the GMC's appeal.
The judge said Dr Awan's conduct was 'serious and deplorable' but a suspension was enough to protect the public from him.
Ruling on the case, the judge said Dr Awan had logged into the Lycos chat room under the username 'medic333' in January 2016.
Once in the chatroom, he started to exchange messages with a user with the name 'sophiasheff'.
He was told 'Sophia' was 13, but continued the conversation, telling her he was a doctor and in bed.
He then sent her an emoji of a couple hugging and wrote: 'mwah huggs for you...want huggs too...mmmwah.'
Dr Awan, who was then living in Sheepscar, Leeds, asked if her mother was there and asked for her number because he wanted to hear her voice.
'This person was in fact a police officer conducting an undercover sting operation,' said the judge.
A few days later, having given the undercover officer his number, 'Sophia' contacted him again.
During the conversation, he finished a message with kisses, but when told again she was 13, he said they couldn't meet as it 'will be illegal.'
Police reported Dr Awan to the GMC and he was investigated, before being suspended for nine months by the MPT in November last year.
The tribunal found that his misconduct included the making of 'numerous inappropriate remarks' and that it was 'sexually motivated.'
However, the tribunal said striking him off as a doctor and thus ending his career would be 'disproportionate.' He had not committed a crime and had made positive steps to address his behaviour, including stopping use of social media.
His conduct was at the lower end of seriousness for such type of misconduct and he was a 'doctor of good standing with an unblemished record.' He had also been the victim of a serious assault and robbery in Pakistan in 2014, the tribunal said.
Appealing against the suspension, GMC lawyers argued that the penalty was not strong enough to protect the public and trust in the medical profession.
But giving judgement at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Mostyn dismissed the appeal and upheld the suspension.
He said: 'Standing back, I ask myself whether the disposal can be characterised as wrong. The conduct of Dr Awan was serious and deplorable.
'However, the sanction imposed by this specialist tribunal was very carefully considered and was judged to be sufficient to meet the objective of protecting the public and promoting and preserving the reputation of the medical profession.
'I cannot say that it was wrong.'
The court heard that following his exchanges with 'Sophia' Dr Awan emigrated to Canada.