Djorajiwala v General Pharmaceutical Council [2013] EWHC 3821 (Admin)

Posted by Bradley Albuery on
The appellant faced an allegation of stealing money from her employer over a protracted period of time in 2006. She was convicted at Reading Crown Court, but subsequently her conviction was overturned.

The appeal had turned on the admittance of the appellant's interview conducted by two private investigators. The court considered that the judge's failure to put in place any procedural safeguards in respect of this interview rendered the conviction unsafe.

At a fitness to practise hearing the appellant continued to deny responsibility for the theft. The panel allowed evidence of the interview to be admitted and clearly placed significant reliance on it in rejecting the appellant's defence.

The panel found her impaired. Notwithstanding her thirty years good conduct in the profession, her positive references, and her continued employment since the incident, the appellant was struck off the register.

She appealed to the High Court.

The substance of the appeal came down to two issues: the admissibility of the interview, and the panel's decision on sanction. The panel had made a specific determination on the admissibility of the interview.

It accepted that the requirements for conducting police interviews under the Police and Criminal Evidence 1984 were relevant in determining the issue of fairness. It considered that the Council bore the burden of proving, on the balance of probabilities, that admissions were not the result of improper means.

The High Court considered this approach to be impeccable, and certainly did not consider the decision to admit the evidence was wrong. One of the interviewers had since died prior to the hearing but the panel had access to his cross-examination in the Crown Court and in any case the second interviewer attended and was cross-examined.

The original signed version of the interview had also gone missing, but again the panel were able to rely on the fact it had been produced, and discussed, in the criminal trial.

With regard to sanction, the panel considered the well known case of Bolton v Law Society. It noted the aggravating features in the case – the protracted nature of the dishonesty, committed in breach of trust, and with premeditation. As against that, the only mitigating feature was the length of the appellant's career.

In its view nothing less than striking the appellant off the register was commensurate with maintaining the reputation of the profession. Again, the High Court noted that it had the appropriate principles in mind and this decision could not be criticised.

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Bradley heads the firms Professional and Business Regulatory group which advises regulators, statutory bodies and organisations.

Bradley Albuery
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