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High Court orders reconsideration of Nazim Ali case

The High Court has ruled that the General Pharmaceutical Council’s Fitness to Practise Committee (FPC) erred in law when it decided that Nazim Ali had not used antisemitic words during a public speech made at the Al Quds Rally in June 2017.  Their ruling on this point has now been quashed and the case has been sent back to the FPC for reconsideration.

Mr Nazim Ali is a pharmacist registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (“the Council”). Disciplinary proceedings were brought against him, alleging that he had used antisemitic and offensive words during a public speech. A Fitness to Practise Committee (“the FPC”) found that the words he had used had not been antisemitic, but that they had been offensive, that this amounted to misconduct, that Mr Ali’s fitness to practise was impaired, and that he should be given a warning.

In December 2020 The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) decided that the FPC erred in its approach to determining whether the comments made by Mr Nazim Ali were antisemitic. The PSA referred the decision to the High Court, which held a hearing on 9 June 2021 and published its Judgment today (23 June 2021).

The PSA’s intervention followed a letter to them from UKLFI Charitable Trust on 16 November 2020 showing that the General Pharmaceutical Council had applied an incorrect test.   UKLFI Charitable Trust argued that a referral to the Court was required to maintain public confidence in the pharmacy profession and proper professional standards and conduct.

Mr Nazim Ali is the managing partner of Chelsea Pharmacy in London.  On 18 June 2017 Mr Ali attended the Al Quds Day rally, an event which is held to demonstrate support for Palestinian rights. Mr Ali led the rally and used a loudhailer. In the course of a long speech during the rally, he made the following comments, amongst others (with lettering added):

“a. It’s in their genes. The Zionists are here to occupy Regent Street. It’s in their genes, it’s in their genetic code.

  1. European alleged Jews. Remember brothers and sisters, Zionists are not Jews.

  2. Any Zionist, any Jew coming into your centre supporting Israel, any Jew coming into your centre who is a Zionist. Any Jew coming in to your centre who is a member for the Board of Deputies, is not a Rabbi, he’s an imposter.

  3. They are responsible for the murder of the people in Grenfell. The Zionist supporters of the Tory party.”

At the FPC Mr Ali admitted using the words and that they were offensive, but contended that he did not have any antisemitic intent and the comments were not antisemitic. A hearing took place from 26 October 2020 to 30 October 2020. The FPC determined that the comments made by Mr Ali were not antisemitic. It found that Mr Ali’s use of the words, which he admitted were grossly offensive, amounted to serious misconduct and that his fitness to practise was thereby impaired. It issued Mr Ali with a warning.

MR JUSTICE JOHNSON stated in his judgment that “in determining whether the Council has established that the remarks are antisemitic, the FPC should assess the objective meaning of the remarks…. In assessing the meaning of the words it should take account of their meaning taken as a whole, and it should not take account of:

(1) Mr Ali’s subjective intention;

(2) Mr Ali’s good character;

(3) The reaction of other audiences in other contexts

The Judge concluded that the FPC erred in each of the respects suggested in the grounds of appeal. It wrongly took account of Mr Ali’s intention when assessing whether his language was objectively antisemitic. It also wrongly took account of his character when assessing whether his language was objectively antisemitic. And it erroneously failed to assess whether the remarks, considered cumulatively, were objectively antisemitic, as opposed to whether each remark in isolation was antisemitic.

Jonathan Turner, Executive Director of UKLFI Charitable Trust, commented: “We are pleased that the High Court has now recognised the possibility that Nazim Ali’s remarks were antisemitic. This vindicates our raising concerns with the PSA following rulings by other tribunals that in our view failed to appreciate the real meaning of his statements in the context in which they were made. And we congratulate the witnesses who have tenaciously sought to ensure that antisemitic remarks cannot be declaimed on the streets of London with impunity.”