Monji v General Pharmaceutical Council  EWHC 3128 (Admin)
Monji v General Pharmaceutical Council  - An appeal brought by a pharmacist against a decision made by the General Pharmaceutical Council's Fitness to Practise [FtP] Committee to remove him from the Register of Pharmacists. The Judge dismissed all grounds of the appeal and took the opportunity to provide a thorough Judgment with time spent analysing the legal approach for the High Court to adopt during statutory appeals from disciplinary tribunals.
Mr Sudhir Manilal Monji [the Appellant] was employed by Boots as the pharmacist manager. The Appellant was dismissed from his role on 10 November 2010 following an investigation into the theft of a number of fragrance testers. As a consequence of the dismissal, a referral was made to the General Pharmaceutical Council [the Respondent] regarding the Appellant's fitness to practise [FtP]. The alleged theft was not reported to the Police.
During the Respondent's FtP investigation, the Appellant continued to work as a registered pharmacist at Lloyd's Pharmacy. The FtP hearing took place on 4 November 2013 and lasted for 9 days, the Appellant was self-represented.
The Appellant did not admit to the theft during the hearing process. The FtP committee stated that "Mr Monji has not told us the truth in this hearing, but has lied to us and has falsely tried to discredit the Council's witness in order to escape the consequences of what he did". The committee acknowledged that the Appellant has continued practising as a pharmacist following his dismissal and therefore there was "no risk to the public from his practise as a pharmacist". Nevertheless the committee found that the Appellant's FtP was currently impaired and his behaviour was such that it was "fundamentally incompatible" with continued registration. An immediate suspension from the register was ordered.
The Appellant appealed on the following grounds:
- "No reasonable Committee/Tribunal would have reached the determination this Committee did on the basis of the evidence seen and heard (Ground 1)
- The Committee made material findings of fact that were not supported by the evidence before it (Ground 2)
- The Committee failed to give reasons for not taking into account the evidence that supported Mr Monji's case (Ground 3)
- The Committee acted in an unjust manner by treating Mr Monji in an irregular and unfair fashion (Ground 4)
- The Committee failed to consider article 8 of the ECHR when making their determination, sanction and interim order (Ground 5)"
The appeal was dismissed on all grounds.
Handed down by Andrew Grubb J.
As part of his Judgment, Grubb J provided the court with a succinct guide to the legal framework upon which a statutory appeal is brought. Please click the link for further information.
Grounds 1 and 2: The Appellant alleged that the FtP committee was wrong in focusing upon the credibility of witnesses instead of assessing and reviewing the evidence before it. Grubb J stated that there was nothing wrong, in principal, with this approach and he rejected the Appellant's contention that the committee had erred on this point.
Grounds 1, 2 and 3: The Appellant submitted that the FtP committee had failed to properly assess the evidence of the case. Grubb J analysed the evidence considered by the committee chronologically and found that the committee's treatment of the evidence was fair and the consideration of any contentious witness evidence did not undermine the committee's overall findings.
Ground 4: The Appellant made submissions relating to procedural impropriety. Grubb J found that any suggestion of unfairness relating to the committee having access to the papers five months in advance of the hearing had not been properly made out by the Appellant. In reading the transcripts, Grubb J also found that there had been no disadvantage caused to the Appellant in being self-represented. Grubb J said that the Appellant was "well-equipped to represent himself".
Ground 5: The Appellant sought to rely on Article 8 of ECHR in that the sanction handed down to him impinged upon his private life as he is now unable work as a registered pharmacist. This outcome, he argued was disproportionate and unfair. The Appellant relied upon his unblemished three years of work at Lloyd's Pharmacy and he relied upon the case of Amao v Nursing and Midwifery Council  EWHC 147 (Admin) where a removal sanction was overturned where the disciplinary body had focused upon the individual's disagreement with the factual findings.
Grubb J said that the FtP committee was entitled to consider the Appellant's attitude towards the allegations made against him and his conduct during the proceedings (Nicholas-Pillai v General Medical Council  EWHC 1048 (Admin)) Grubb J acknowledged the Appellant's previous good character and subsequent work at Lloyd's Pharmacy and felt that some may consider the sanction given as "a harsh consequence" in order to maintain confidence in the pharmacy profession. Nevertheless the Judge confirmed that could not "interfere with a sanction which in principal was open to the FtP simply because some would not have imposed it."
For these reasons all the grounds of the appeal were dismissed.