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Six-month suspension after death by dangerous driving conviction

By news team

A pharmacist whose dangerous driving caused the death of a pedestrian has been suspended from the Register for six months by the fitness-to-practise committee of the General Pharmaceutical Council.

At its meeting on 1 August 2012, the committee inquired into the case of Afzaal Mohammed Khan (registration number 2048899).

The committee had received information that on 4 March 2011 at Bolton Crown Court Mr Khan had pleaded guilty to and had been convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, driving without insurance and failing to stop after a road accident. On 25 March 2011, he had been sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment, and was released from prison under a home detention curfew programme in April 2012.

Mr Khan was present at the hearing and was represented by Louise Straw, of BurtonCopeland.

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

The facts of the case were that on 18 October 2009, Mr Khan was driving his sister's car because his own would not start. He was on his way to the airport to deliver a visa to his mother, who had asked him to bring it urgently so that she could board a flight to Pakistan. At about 6.45pm Mr Khan drove at excessive speed through a set of traffic lights showing red and collided with a pedestrian crossing the road at the far side of the junction. He then failed to stop, despite the fact the he must have been aware of the collision on account of the damage to his windscreen. The pedestrian later died. Later that evening, Mr Khan handed himself over to the police. Prosecution and conviction followed.

Giving the committee's decision, the chairman, Michael Simon, said that while the committee had no hesitation in deciding that Mr Khan's fitness to practice was currently impaired, there were a number of mitigating factors that needed to be taken into account when considering an appropriate sanction:

  • This was a single isolated incident in an otherwise long and unblemished career
  • Mr Khan had made an open and frank admission at an early stage, having handed himself into the police on the same day as the incident
  • He had been sincere in his apology within the criminal proceedings, writing directly to the victim's partner, as well as in these FTP proceedings
  • He had demonstrated full and genuine insight into the offence and its consequences

The chairman went on to say that although harm had been caused to an innocent member of the public outside the working environment, there was a complete absence of any intention on Mr Khan's part to cause harm. "His course of driving was dangerous, but it would have been so categorised even without the impact with [the victim] and his subsequent death," he said. The only other aggravating factor was Mr Khan's failure to stop and render some level of assistance to the victim, he added.

The committee also considered that Mr Khan had provided a number of testimonials that spoke highly of his abilities as a pharmacist, and the tributes to his volunteer community and charity work, spanning many years, were glowing, the chairman said. Also, he was clearly a man who had reflected on his actions on 18 October 2009 and who had come to terms with all the consequences for himself and his family that flowed therefrom.

The chairman ordered that Mr Khan be suspended from the Register for a period of six months. The committee believed this to be a necessary and proportionate response that would satisfy the public interest because:

  • The limb of the public interest relating to the protection of the public was not engaged to any extent in this case
  • Although the consequences of Mr Khan's actions were devastating, this was not a course of conduct that was in any way premeditated or intended to cause harm
  • The risk of repetition of such behaviour was as minimal as could be conceived
  • Although arguably the declaring and upholding of standards within the profession was nominally engaged, commission of this particular offence was not likely ever to present itself, in the normal course of events, to other registrants such that it would be proper or proportionate to make an example of Mr Khan, sacrificing his future for the benefit of the wider profession

Disposing of the case, the chairman said: "We have concluded, only after the most careful consideration in what is an unusual and particularly taxing case, that a period of six months' suspension meets in full the public confidence aspects of this case. We reached our decision on the type of order and the length of it by carefully balancing the public interest with Mr Khan's own interests, applying proper and appropriate weight to all the features of the case that we have identified."

He explained that the committee had considered ordering Mr Khan's erasure from the Register, but had concluded that "depriving the public long-term of such a capable and highly regarded pharmacist would do nothing to serve the public interest".



Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11110188

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