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Just one prosecution from BBC POM sales exposé

Professional Only one pharmacist has faced criminal proceedings following the Inside Out investigation, C+D has learned, raising questions over the quality of the BBC's evidence

Only one pharmacist has faced criminal prosecution as a result of December's BBC investigation into illegal medicines sales, C+D has learned.


London pharmacist Ghanshyam Hirani, 55, was fined a total of £910 at Westminster Magistrates Court on October 3 for selling prescription-only medicines not in accordance with the prescription given by a practitioner, the court told C+D.


Mr Hirani, pharmacist at R and C Pharmacy in Walm Lane, north-west London, was ordered to pay a £750 fine, a £75 victim surcharge and costs of £85. He was handed an interim suspension order by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) in June.


The lack of prosecution raised questions over the quality of the BBC's evidence, said Noel Wardle, partner at Charles Russell, who is representing some of the pharmacists accused in the investigation

More on the BBC investigation

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Pharmacists defend profession after BBC exposé

But the Metropolitan Police revealed that Mr Hirani was the only pharmacist to face a court summons for allegations made in the BBC Inside Out investigation, which accused nine London pharmacies of illegally selling medicines including diazepam and Viagra. A 39-year-old man and 37-year-old woman from two separate pharmacies were given cautions for their involvement.

The lack of prosecution raised questions over the quality of the BBC's evidence, said Noel Wardle, partner at Charles Russell, who is representing some of the pharmacists accused in the investigation. Mr Wardle said he knew of several cases where the police investigations had been dropped.


The BBC told C+D it stood by its report and said Inside Out London had "an excellent record of managing investigations". It could not comment on the legal outcomes, the BBC said, but it was satisfied the programme was "fair, accurate and balanced".


Such media footage rarely made a solid prosecution case, Mr Wardle argued. "The footage wasn't complete – there may have been a series of conversations leading up to that but that evidence wasn't available," Mr Wardle told C+D. "It turns out the police then did investigate and decided not to prosecute and that might have been because, for example, the police was of the view that video surveillance really isn't sufficient."


Mr Wardle also criticised the GPhC for placing interim suspension orders on the accused pharmacists. Six pharmacists are currently suspended in connection with the investigation, pending full fitness-to-practise hearings.


He branded the decision a "knee-jerk reaction" to the claims. "I think the GPhC was too quick to apply for interim orders before there was really a body of evidence," Mr Wardle argued. "You wouldn't expect the same evidence as for a final hearing, but it should be credible and cogent."


The GPhC said it could not comment on specific cases, but highlighted that interim orders were made where the allegations were serious enough to pose a threat to the public. It stressed that interim orders did not involve a full assessment of the evidence, as in fitness-to-practise hearings, but the orders were reviewed every six months.



What do you make of the BBC's allegations?

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4 Comments
Question: 
What did you think of this story?

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

I find the GPhC eagerness to impose interim suspension orders, on the allegation of an offence, worrying. There must be some credible evidence of wrongdoing to back this up. Otherwise, pharmacists will find themselves presumed guilty until proven innocent, which goes against centuries of English legal practice.

MESUT OZIL,

Over a period of several weeks, the team managed to buy 288 diazepam tablets, 21 temazepam tablets, 294 amoxicillin tablets, 24 Viagra tablets and one bottle of Oramorph.
LOL
Which pharmacists would give an emergency supply fo the above? answers on a post card.......I certainly wouldn't...

T K, Pharmacy Buyer

..

John Randell, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

bbc basically took what it wanted...a story...fact is they probably dont know the rules OF EMERGENCY SUPPLY...YES YOU CAN CHARGE CUSTOMER FOR AN EMERGENCY SUPPLY PROVIDING OTHER CRITERIA ARE MET....but the bbc did not want to delve deeply into it, they just took something "a story and run with it to gain headlines...

they were not at all interested in facts...IN THE NEWS WORLD IT SEEMS FACTS AND TRUTH IS TOO BORING AND IS ALWAYS CONSIDERED NOT NEWS WORTHY....THE BBC IS MORE LIKE A SOURCE OF ENTERTAINMENT NOT A PROVIDER OF FACTS.

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