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Pharmacy technician found with ‘indecent images of children’ struck off

A pharmacy technician has been struck off the register after he was convicted of possessing indecent photographs of children, the pharmacy regulator has said.

Graeme Arthur, registration number 5039154, was found guilty of three counts of possessing indecent photographs of a child in the Peterlee Magistrates’ Court in August 2022, the regulator’s fitness-to-practise committee heard at a hearing earlier this month (May 2-3).

Some of the images found in his possession were of the “most serious category”, according to a hearing determination document published by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

Mr Arthur, a pharmacy technician first registered with the GPhC in 2019, admitted searching for indecent images of children and several images were found on his digital devices, the regulator said.

After entering a guilty plea in August last year, he received an 18-month community order, was made subject to a five-year sexual harm prevention order restricting his use of devices that can access the internet and was ordered to undertake a 40-day period of rehabilitation activity, it added.

The regulator acknowledged that Mr Arthur had “taken responsibility for his actions”, while Mr Arthur told the regulator that his “risk of reoffending was low”.

However, the GPhC heard that Mr Arthur’s conduct had the “potential to damage the public’s trust and confidence” in the pharmacy profession and that he presented a “potential risk to patients and the wider public”.

 

Criminal conviction

 

Police attended Mr Arthur’s home on January 10, 2022, and “seized digital equipment in relation to an investigation for possessing indecent images of children”, the GPhC document said.

On January 14, Mr Arthur attended a “voluntary interview” with the police and while he “initially denied” committing offences related to possessing indecent images of children, he later “made admissions”, it added.

Mr Arthur conceded to the police that he had used his desktop computer to search for ‘gay child porn’, the hearing document said.

He used a peer-to-peer website to conduct 26 searches using explicit keywords including the words ‘boy’ and ‘13yo’ but said that he “did not believe that he downloaded any”, it added.

A digital forensic examination of his mobile phone uncovered a folder, secured by a separate PIN, containing evidence that Mr Arthur had “accessed indecent images of children” using the device and hyperlinks on the phone showed indecent images of children, it said.

However, the document added that “Mr Arthur stated that he was not sexually attracted to children”.

On July 8, 2022, Mr Arthur was charged with the possession of indecent images across three categories, according to the document.

Three of the indecent images of children found in Mr Arthur’s possession were categorised within Category A, the most serious category, which show “penetrative sexual activity, or activity involving animals or sadism”, it said.

The document added that Mr Arthur appeared at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on August 5, 2022, and entered a guilty plea “at the earliest opportunity”.

And it said that later that month (August 26), he was convicted on three counts of possession of “indecent photographs” – possession of three Category A images of a child, possession of two Category B images of a child and possession of two Category C images of a child.

 

Hearing partly held in private

 

Parts of the hearing were held in private because they could prejudice “another criminal matter” or were related to Mr Arthur’s “health, private life history and domestic matters”, the document said.

But Mr Arthur had asked for the whole hearing to be held privately, because of the “potential reaction by members of the public to any public determination”, it added.

The regulator acknowledged that Mr Arthur had “expressed remorse” for what he described as a “heinous error” and said that “he accepts that the private life history which he has experienced is not an excuse for his behaviour”.

It said that there were “a number of mitigating features”, including his guilty plea, the fact that he “sought professional help and hoped to remain engaged with counselling support” and that he had been “open and honest with his employer” and the regulator.

It also acknowledged that there was “personal mitigation” but said that it was “not able to give great weight to this”.

Mr Arthur “co-operated with the council”, had “no other fitness-to-practise concerns” and “now had proper support from counselling, his GP and his family, who knew about the matter and were very supportive”, the regulator said.

The GPhC received proof that Mr Arthur had completed a Safer Lives Course, designed for online offenders, which he said showed him “how devastating the possession and viewing of such images could be” and “enabled him to understand the reasons he viewed these images”, it added.

The programme – which Mr Arthur referred himself to, “engaged fully” with and paid all fees for – aimed to give him “insight and understanding into his behaviour to allow him to make permanent changes to avoid future abusive behaviours”, the regulator said.

Mr Arthur told the regulator that he was on the waiting list for further counselling and acknowledged that he had breached professional standards of the profession and had “brought the profession into disrepute” but said he “had not acted out of malice”, the document added.

 

“Risk to patients or the public”

 

But the GPhC stressed that Mr Arthur had “a serious conviction for an offence that has included possession of the most serious category of images of sexual abuse of children”.

And it said that while he had begun to undertake remedial activity “long before the conviction” and is “on a path towards understanding and rehabilitation”, his “level of insight remained limited and he had not shown a well-developed understanding of the impact of his actions”.

Aggravating factors included that his actions “were of a deliberate nature”, involving “multiple key word searches” that were “clearly relating to child sexual abuse” and attempts to “conceal” the images, it added.

“Although Mr Arthur had no direct contact with the children concerned, the nature of the abuse is that it thrives on the demand from those who search for and view the images online”, the regulator said.

“As such, children come to actual harm indirectly through the activity of someone viewing and possession of images of sexual abuse,” it added.

The regulator “did not suggest” that Mr Arthur had caused “actual harm” to patients or that the conduct that led to his conviction had taken place in a pharmacy, the document said.

But it added that the conviction “suggested that Mr Arthur had an interest in children under the age of 16” and that there was a “risk that in the course of his professional practice, [he] may come into contact with children under the age of 16”.

The GPhC determined that Mr Arthur “continues to present a potential risk to patients or the public”, citing a pre-sentence report that assessed him as presenting a “medium risk” for reoffending.

It noted that Mr Arthur was subject to a five-year sexual harm prevention order, running until 2027, and that he had not completed his rehabilitation activity although he “expected to do so by February next year”.

 

Removal from the register

 

The regulator found that Mr Arthur had brought the pharmacy profession “into disrepute” by his conviction and that his fitness to practise was impaired “on grounds of protection of the public and in the wider public interest”.

The fitness-to-practise committee directed that Mr Arthur be removed from the register.

“The seriousness of the sexual misconduct in this case is such that we find it incompatible with Mr Arthur remaining on the register”, it said, adding that there would be “damage to the reputation of the profession” if he were to be suspended rather than removed.

The decision will take effect after 28 days (May 31) or once any appeal has concluded, but the regulator imposed an immediate interim measure of suspension “to protect the public during the potential appeal period” and to “uphold the reputation of the profession”.

Read the full determination here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, you can contact Pharmacist Support by emailing [email protected] or calling 0808 168 2233/0808 168 5133 for free or other organisations such as Victim SupportThe Survivors Trust or Male Survivors Partnership

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