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CD possession leads to pharmacist’s three-month suspension

A pharmacist who accepted a police caution for being in possession of Controlled Drugs has had his name suspended from the Register for three months, by order of the fitness-to-practise committee of the General Pharmaceutical Council.

At its meeting on 2 December 2013, the committee inquired into the case of Jasjeet Singh Sethi (registration number 2073362). Information had been received that on 27 April 2012, Mr Sethi had been issued with a police caution by the Metropolitan Police for possessing MDMA, a class A CD also known as “ecstasy”, and mephedrone, a class B CD. It was alleged that Mr Sethi’s fitness to practise was impaired as a result of the police caution.

Mr Sethi was present at the inquiry and was represented by Gemma Hobcraft, of counsel.

Mark Millin, solicitor advocate, appeared on behalf of the GPhC.

The committee heard that, on 11 December 2011, police officers had observed Mr Sethi and three other men in the Vauxhall area of London behind a large nightclub that stayed open all night. Mr Sethi’s eyes were seen to be glazed and bulging. On being approached by the police, he admitted that he was in possession of the CDs and said that these were for his personal use. He attended a police station on 27 April 2012 and accepted the police caution.

Subsequently he reported the matter himself to the GPhC on 11 May 2012. In the form used for that purpose and in a subsequent written statement to the FTP committee, he stated that the drugs were not his but that he had been looking. after them for a female friend who had been wearing a dress without pockets and who had no handbag with her at the time.

Stress

He further explained that he had been under a lot of stress owing to the death of his mother, to whom he was close, in late November 2011. He had returned to Britain from India on 8 December 2011. Since he felt lonely, he decided to go out on Saturday 10 December and at the nightclub he had drunk a great deal of alcohol. His female friend had asked him to look after the drugs, which he had agreed to, and then he carried on drinking.

Mr Sethi said that, that evening, he took some of the drug at the suggestion of his friend. He put some of the powder onto a key and sniffed it into his nose.

He told the committee that he had never done this before, that he had realised he made a mistake and that he had decided never to take any illicit drug again. He also told the committee that, before accepting the police caution, he had visited his GP in March 2012, who diagnosed mild depression, recommended counselling and prescribed citalopram. Mr Sethi said that he had been reluctant to take the medicine and, having found a person with whom he could discuss his feelings, now believed he was entirely restored to health.

After the offences, Mr Sethi was sacked from his employment for gross misconduct but had subsequently found locum work.

He had submitted to a medical examination at the request of the GPhC and the forensic psychiatrist confirmed that there was no reason to conclude that Mr Sethi posed any risk to patients or the public. He also believed Mr Sethi had insight into and awareness of the issues and concerns around his drug-related caution.

Giving the committee’s decision, the chairman, Douglas Readings, said that the committee first had to decide whether to accept Mr Sethi’s version of events as told to the committee, which contradicted what he initially told the police. The committee entirely accepted that at the time Mr Sethi was emotionally distressed. “He might have been more likely to act irrationally and might have failed to explain himself fully to the police when detained, searched and questioned,” the chairman said. He added that there was a wealth of evidence to establish Mr Sethi’s reputation for honesty and integrity.

The committee concluded that the version of events as told to the police was the correct one: that the drugs were Mr Sethi’s and that he was not looking after them for a friend. “However,” the chairman said, “the committee is prepared to accept that this was an isolated event. On the balance of probabilities it will accept that Mr Sethi took an illicit drug for the first time and there is no likelihood of any repetition.”

It concluded that the fair and appropriate sanction in this case was an order for suspension from the Register for three months.

The chairman said: “There is an understandable opinion among pharmacists that any involvement in illicit drugs should be the end of a pharmacist’s career. However, Mr Sethi is young and was, at the time of his misbehavior, suffering severe emotional distress. In those circumstance the committee considers that his conduct is not such as to be fundamentally incompatible with continued registration and an order for removal from the Register would not be proportionate.”

Mr Sethi was immediately suspended from the Register pending the coming into force of the three-month suspension order.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11135503

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