In the case of Jawid Ahmed Yusuf v Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (2009), Y sought an adjournment in the proceedings on the grounds of ill health, but produced no medical evidence. The Disciplinary Committee refused the application and after hearing all the evidence, decided to remove Y from the register.
Y appealed on the following grounds:
- The committee was wrong to refuse the application to adjourn on the grounds of ill health.
- The committee was wrong to proceed in Y’s absence.
- The committee failed adequately to protect Y’s interests by failing to ensure that one witness was adequately and thoroughly examined/cross-examined by the committee.
- The committee was wrong and acted disproportionately in directing that Y’s name be removed from the register given the unusual circumstances of the case.
The High Court dealt with each ground separately:
- The chairman was not wrong to refuse the application, as it was made two days before the hearing with no supporting medical evidence. The chairman was not under a duty to request medical evidence. Also because 20 witnesses would have been inconvenienced if the adjournment had been allowed.
- The chairman correctly identified the key issue as being whether Y had voluntarily chosen not to attend and the committee was properly alert to the need to exercise its discretion to proceed in Y’s absence with the utmost caution.
- The committee did all that could be expected of it, as it tested to an appropriate extent the witness’s account.
- The committee gave clear and compelling reasons for deciding to impose the ultimate sanction and was entitled to do so.
This decision should assist fitness to practise committees when deciding to proceed in a defendant’s absence.