Professional Standards Authority v (1) Health & Care Professions Council (2) Ghaffar [2014] EWHC 2723 (Admin)

Posted on
Mr Ghaffar was a bio-medical scientist at an NHS Trust. He applied for a more senior role which required an accredited Master of Science degree (MSc). Although Mr Ghaffar did not have an MSc, at interview, he constructed an elaborate story about his attendance at university but said that he had not brought the certificate for the MSc with him. On successfully being appointed to the role, Mr Ghaffar was asked to submit a copy of the certificate. Mr Ghaffar falsely obtained a copy of a junior colleague's certificate and wrote to the university asking that the name on the certificate be substituted with his own. The reasons given being due to a religious conversion.

The Trust became suspicious and investigated the matter further. Mr Ghaffar admitted that the certificate was not his own but claimed during the investigation that he had completed the MSc degree via distance learning but that a certificate had never been provided to him.

Mr Ghaffar was charged by police and pleaded guilty to making false representations for personal gain. He received a sentence of six months imprisonment suspended for 12 months plus 200 hours community service.

Proceedings were brought against Mr Ghaffar by the Health & Care Professions Council. At a hearing before the Conduct and Competence Committee, the Committee found that maintenance of public confidence in the profession did not require a finding of impairment.

The Professional Standards Authority appealed the decision on the grounds that the Committee's decision had been unduly lenient pursuant to s. 29 National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002.

The Court held that in order to consider whether a penalty was unduly lenient, it must consider whether it was one which a disciplinary tribunal, having regard to the relevant facts and to the object of the disciplinary proceedings, could reasonably have imposed. The Court held that the Committee's decision had been manifestly inappropriate and their decision would be quashed.

Mr Ghaffar had breached a fundamental tenet of honesty and there was a public interest in maintaining honesty in the profession. The Court echoed the comments in Parkinson v NMC [2010] EWHC 1898 (Admin) that it would be unusual that a finding of dishonesty would not affect a panel's decision on impairment.