A 12 month suspension was too short. Removal from the register
was too severe. A "middle way" was found to ensure a
further 12 month suspension was imposed. An ingenious solution?
Yes. However in Khan v General Pharmaceutical Council
 UKSC 64 the Supreme Court held it was "too
Mr Khan was a registered pharmacist. He was convicted in May
2011 and June 2012 on charges relating to domestic violence. As a
result of his convictions Mr Khan was referred to the Fitness to
Practise Committee of the General Pharmaceutical Council.
The Committee found that his fitness to practise was impaired.
It rejected the option of suspending Mr Khan for the maximum 12
months, as it considered it insufficient given the gravity of his
misconduct. The Committee directed that his name be removed from
the register. Mr Khan appealed.
The Inner House of the Court of Session allowed the appeal.
Noting that a 12 month suspension was not sufficient, but that
removal was too severe, the court identified a "middle
way". This was to order a 12 month suspension with a review
hearing at the end. The Committee could indicate at the outset that
the review committee should extend the suspension for a further 12
The GPC appealed to the Supreme Court against the proposed
"middle way". Mr Khan cross-appealed on the basis that
the Committee's decision to remove him from the register was
The Supreme Court allowed both the appeal and the cross-appeal.
The Inner House had been too ingenious; there was no proposed
"middle way" open to the Committee. They also found that
the appropriate sanction against Mr Khan was suspension for a
The Supreme Court described the "middle way" as
"alien" to the generally accepted purpose of a review
committee. That purpose is to monitor the steps taken by the
practitioner towards securing professional rehabilitation. It
cannot be a proper ground to extend a suspension at a review
hearing on the basis that the original period of suspension did not
reflect the gravity of the offence.
Turning to the cross-appeal, the Committee's task was not to
punish Mr Khan but to judge the effect on public confidence in the
profession and to identify a proportionate sanction to reflect
that. The convictions were not directly related to Mr Khan's
professional practice. There were also several mitigating factors
which were not taken into account such as genuine insight into the
misconduct and a genuine expression of remorse. The Supreme Court
considered that the decision to remove Mr Khan was not only harsh,
it was unnecessary and disproportionate.
This judgment is important for three reasons. First, it confirms
that there is no "middle way" open to a practice
committee between suspension for 12 months and erasure. Second it
confirms the proper purpose of a review hearing is to monitor the
steps take by the practitioner during the period of conditions or
suspension. Finally, it demonstrates that, even in cases involving
multiple criminal convictions, evidence of remediation, insight and
remorse may be of key importance in avoiding erasure.
The English Commercial Court has published two recent judgments of Mr Justice Popplewell in a single anonymised case concerning the removal of two arbitrators under section 24(1)(d)(i) of the Arbitration Act 1996.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).