The High Court has quashed a decision by a General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) fitness-to-practise (FtP) committee that had ruled that comments made by a pharmacist could not be considered antisemitic.
The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) had appealed against the FtP committee’s decision to issue pharmacist Nazim Hussain Ali with a warning, following comments he made at an Al Quds Day rally held in central London on 18 June 2017. The committee had considered whether the remarks could be interpreted as antisemitic and offensive. It ruled that the comments were offensive and amounted to “serious misconduct”, and found Ali “to be impaired on the public interest ground”. However, the committee said that “most reasonable people”, when taking into account the context in which the comments were made, would not conclude that the comments made by Ali were antisemitic.
The appeal was held at the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court on 9 June 2021 and, in a judgement published on 23 June 2021, Mr Justice Johnson said that he would “remit the case to the [fitness-to-practise committee] for reconsideration”.
Mr Justice Johnson said that the committee “wrongly took account of Mr Ali’s intention when assessing whether his language was objectively antisemitic”.
“It wrongly took account of his character when assessing whether his language was objectively antisemitic. And it erroneously failed to assess whether the remarks, considered cumulatively, were objectively antisemitic, as opposed to whether each remark in isolation was antisemitic”.
The judgement said that Ali “recognises that his language was, at least, offensive, and he has expressed remorse”, and that ”there is no suggestion that he has repeated these types of comment since”.
In giving the outcome of the appeal, Mr Justice Johnson said that the FtP Committee’s decision that charge 2(a) — the allegation that Ali had “said things that were antisemitic” — was not proven was “quashed, as are its consequential findings relating to misconduct, impairment and sanction. Charge 2(a) is remitted to the FPC to determine afresh”.
Responding to the judgement, Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, said: “We agree that the fitness-to-practise committee erred in its approach to deciding whether or not the comments made by Mr Ali were antisemitic and we did not contest the appeal by the PSA.
“We will make sure the learnings from this case and the High Court judgment are shared across the organisation and our committees.
“The further FtP hearing for Mr Ali will be scheduled at the earliest opportunity.”
Nazim Ali has been contacted for comment.