Harcus Sinclair v Your Lawyers - Another nail in the coffin of solicitors’ undertakings?
Decision date: 25 April 2012
The Fitness to Practise Committee (‘the Committee’) of the General Pharmaceutical Council were entitled to conclude that the pattern of the appellant's conduct and his offending were so serious as to warrant erasure.
The Appellant, Mr Ansari, faced two allegations that his fitness to practise as a pharmacist was impaired by reason of misconduct such that he is unfit to have his name on the Register. The first allegation was one of dishonesty; that Mr Ansari had failed to declare a criminal conviction on his application form for registration in the Register of Pharmacists. The second allegation was that Mr Ansari had been convicted of six criminal offences under the Road Traffic Acts 1988 and 1998 (including refusing to provide a specimen of breath, driving whilst disqualified, driving without insurance and driving under the influence of alcohol), between 2005 and 2010.
Mr Ansari admitted the particulars of the allegations of misconduct however he did not admit acting dishonestly. The Committee found that Mr Ansari knew at the time when he signed the declaration that what he was doing was untruthful and that he knew he was acting dishonestly. They concluded that there was impairment of fitness to practise and went on to determine sanction.
In reaching their decision to erase Mr Ansari’s name from the Register, the Committee considered his dishonest conduct but stated that the finding of dishonesty alone should not dictate the outcome of the case.
The Committee then went on to consider the pattern of Mr Ansari’s offending and the effect of his behaviour on the reputation of the profession. They referred to him disobeying orders of the court and his poor judgment and were concerned that the punishments offered by the criminal courts had not worked in the long-term. The Committee acknowledged that Mr Ansari had shown some insight in to his behaviour but were not confident that he would place his professional obligations above his personal choices. They decided that it was necessary and proportionate to remove his name from the Register because the maintenance of public confidence in the profession demanded no lesser sanction.
The Appeal was brought on three grounds: 1) the Committee had failed to have regard to a range of matters, namely that the driving convictions were unconnected to Mr Ansari’s clinical practice; 2) the sanction was disproportionate; and 3) the sanction did not follow from the findings of the Committee as they had found he had begun to develop insight.
The Administrative Court dismissed the appeal on all three grounds. In particular, Mr Justice Sales stated the Appeal Court should be slow to conclude that the judgment of the Committee on sanction was “wrong”. Firstly, he referred to the Committee as being best placed to assess the evidence and Mr Ansari’s level of insight. Secondly, he stated that the Committee gave careful attention to all relevant matters bearing on the question they had to decide and had well in mind that the sanction should be proportionate to the offending behaviour insofar as that had potential to bring public confidence in the profession into question.
The professional judgment of a Fitness to Practise Committee merits respect and they are best placed to deal with sanction. This case reaffirms the position maintained by the Courts; that they will only intervene if there are good grounds for doing so. Further, if a Registrant wishes to show insight into their behaviour, in order for the Committee to recognise this, it must be more than just a mere acceptance of the circumstances and requires evidence that positive steps have been taken to address the culpable behaviour.
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