A GPhC fitness to practise ruling has been referred to the High Court after the regulator was accused of failing to make a finding of antisemitism.
Addressing a Palestinian rights rally in June 2017, London pharmacist Nazim Hussain Ali said “Zionist supporters of the Tory party” were “responsible for the murder of the people in Grenfell”, among other remarks that were deemed highly offensive.
In a fitness to practise hearing in late 2020, the GPhC found that while Mr Ali’s remarks were “grossly offensive” and had “brought disgrace upon the profession,” it could not be conclusively determined that a ‘reasonable person’ would interpret them as being antisemitic given the wider context in which they were made.
Mr Ali, who apologised “unreservedly” for his actions and said he opposed “all forms of prejudice,” received a formal warning but no restrictions were imposed on his licence.
Following the ruling, the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) made legal representations to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which oversees the UK’s health regulators. The PSA has now referred the GPhC’s decision to the High Court for review.
Stephen Silverman, director of investigations and enforcement at CAA, said: “Since 2017, we have fought to ensure that Nazim Ali faces the consequences of his actions. As a pharmacist, he is bound by professional rules, and we are pleased the due to our complaint his regulator ruled that he brought his profession into disrepute.
“However, the ruling was deeply flawed, finding Mr Ali’s remarks not to be antisemitic, and considering Jewish bystanders not to be reasonable persons.
“This was irrational and perverse in the extreme, so we instructed lawyers to ensure that it cannot be allowed to stand due to the example that it sets. Not only that, but the decision to merely issue Mr Ali with a warning was insufficient to protect the public.”
The PSA said: “The Authority has decided to refer the decision to the High Court because we considered that it may be insufficient to protect the public. The Authority was concerned that the [GPhC's fitness to practise committee] had erred in its approach to a charge that the comments made by Mr Ali were antisemitic.
“The Authority has referred the General Pharmaceutical Council’s decision in the Nazim Ali case to the High Court. The usual process is that we wait to hear from the court that the case has been listed for a hearing. The court can either refer the back to the regulator to re-do, quash the panel’s decision and make its own, or dismiss it.”
A GPhC spokesperson told Pharmacy Network News: “We have received the grounds of appeal and are considering our response.”