The Fitness to Practise Committee (Committee) of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) directed the removal of a pharmacist's registration following his conviction in 2018 for the murder of his wife.
In December 2018, the registrant was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years imprisonment when he was found guilty of strangling his wife with a plastic bag.
It was proven at his trial, that the registrant had subdued his wife with insulin before suffocating her. Forensic evidence was produced at trial which showed that the registrant had conducted online research about strangulation and the effects of insulin for a number of years in advance of his crime.
In an effort to cover up his crime, the registrant then, immediately after killing his wife, ransacked the family home in an attempt to make the murder look like a break-in gone wrong. Interestingly, the registrant's attempt to deceive the authorities in this manner was thwarted when they examined data from the registrant's health app on his mobile phone. This data was used and crucial to secure the conviction of the registrant.
Unknown to the registrant at the time of his crimes, his iPhone was actively monitoring his activity, and the data revealed his frantic running around the house as he staged the burglary by running up and down the stairs. Data from the phone of his deceased wife was also examined, and revealed that her health app recorded no movement until shortly after her death, when the registrant took her phone from her body and dropped it outside in an attempt to make it look like the "burglar" had dropped it when leaving the house. Following the conviction of the registrant, the Committee convened in June 2019 to consider his registration status in light of his conviction. An allegation was made that his fitness to practise was impaired by reason of same. Attention was drawn to the fact that the registrant was not present before the Committee, despite his being put on notice of same (notice had been served on the registrant in the prison where he is serving his sentence). The Committee proceeded in his absence, noting that it was in the public interest to do so and that the registrant had not asked for the hearing to be postponed, nor had the registrant responded to any of the correspondence sent to him.
The Committee found that the allegation made against the registrant was proven, and subsequently made a finding of impairment as against the registrant under Article 51(1)(e) of the Pharmacy Order 2010 which states:
"A person's fitness to practise is to be regarded as "impaired" for the purposes of this Order only by reason of:
(e) a conviction in the British Islands for a criminal offence."
The Committee accepted the submission made by the GPhC that the conduct of the registrant as regards his conviction breached a number of the GPhC's Standards for Pharmacy Professionals, namely:
- Standard 6: Pharmacy professionals must behave in a professional manner;
- Standard 8: Pharmacy professionals must speak up when they have concerns or when things go wrong;
- Standard 9: Pharmacy professionals must display leadership.
In light of the above, the Committee found that the registrant's fitness to practise was impaired by reason of the conviction. It was noted that this finding was also required on public interest grounds in order to uphold professional standards and public confidence in the profession. The Committee directed that the registrant's entry in the register of pharmacists be removed.
The regulation of pharmacists in the UK operates under a different legislative structure and to a different standard of proof than its Irish equivalent, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland.
This case demonstrates to prosecutors and indeed professional regulators a new age of evidence which may be available and should be considered when investigating complaints.
It is likely to be only a matter of time before such evidence/data plays a key role, as it did here, in the professional regulatory context again.
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