A pharmacy technician has been suspended for four months for failing to disclose criminal offences to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).
Stephen Andrew Butler, 50009015, was convicted of assault in 1990 for “kicking out at” his then girlfriend during an argument in which she trapped his hand in a door. He also received a police caution in 2008 for being in possession of cocaine, the GPhC heard at a fitness-to-practise hearing on July 2.
But when registering as a pharmacy technician in 2009, he told the GPhC he had never been cautioned or convicted of a criminal offence – a statement he continued to make for the next five years on his annual retention form, the regulator heard.
The regulator accepted 53-year old Mr Butler had no prior disciplinary history and had been a “competent and hard-working” member of staff in the pharmacy department at St James' University Hospital in Leeds for 27 years.
But it stressed that his declaration that he had never received a criminal caution or conviction “was untrue, and [he] must have known it was untrue”, and that this amounted to "a dishonest course of conduct over a long period".
Mr Butler's offences had been discovered when Leeds NHS Trust conducted criminal record and barring checks on all employees, and he had faced disciplinary action and a final written warning from his employer as a result, the GPhC heard.
"Verging on the incredible"
The regulator noted the £100 fine Mr Butler received for the assault on his girlfriend was not “terribly serious” and noted it had happened many years before he registered as a pharmacy technician. It conceded that questioning Mr Butler's fitness-to-practise because of an incident that happened in 1990 would be "a little absurd".
But the GPhC refused to accept Mr Butler’s assertion that he considered the assault had occurred “too long ago” to require disclosure to the GPhC.
The GPhC also rejected Mr Butler's explanation for accepting a caution at Charing Cross Police Station in London in 2008, when a packet of cocaine was found in a pocket of his jeans. He claimed someone had put the drug into his pocket without his knowledge - an explanation the GPhC described as “verging on the incredible”.
Mr Butler maintained that he had “no idea” he had received a caution for the incident, and believed he had merely been given a verbal warning by the police. He had been released from police custody after signing a record of caution, but claimed he was under the impression he was signing for his possessions.
While the regulator accepted Mr Butler had been “stressed and confused” at the time of the incident, it said there was “simply nothing” in the record of caution to indicate this was its purpose.
"Far from wholly innocent"
The regulator also noted Mr Butler’s occupation had been recorded as “builder” on the record of caution, even though he was an unregistered pharmacy technician at the time. The regulator noted there were “compelling reasons” why he would want to conceal his true profession, and argued that doing so indicated that he had not been “wholly innocent” in his possession of the drug.
The regulator accepted that there was no evidence to suggest he had been in the possession of or had used any recreational drugs since his caution for the possession of cocaine, and a police saliva test at the time confirmed he had no drugs in his system. Mr Butler had also "apologised unreservedly" and was held in "high regard" by colleagues.
But it stressed that his denial of lying on his registration form had shown lack of insight. The regulator said it could not be sure he would not conceal information about his conduct to the GPhC in the future, and ruled to suspend him for four months.
Read the full determination here.