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Home  »   Member VoiceLatest News   »   I’ll never forget that knock on the door

I’ll never forget that knock on the door

A true-life experience written by an anonymised PDA member.

Mon 11th July 2022 The PDA

I was fast asleep. My wife came bursting through the bedroom door “the police are here and they have a search warrant”. I could tell from the tears, panic and shock in her face that this wasn’t a joke. The local police couldn’t have been kinder; “we dressed casually and drove in unmarked cars so the neighbours won’t know what’s happening“.

The NHS Police (“NHS Protect” at the time, now “NHS CFA”) had a rather different approach; as I sat there in an absolute daze watching all of mine and my wife’s computers, phones, laptops being bagged up I said to one of the NHS CFA officers that this must be upsetting for them also; the reply was “this is the fun part of the job”. After 3 hours they left and that’s when the real stress started.

Reputational, family and health consequences

I lost count of how many times over the next 6 years I thought I was actually having a heart attack and should head to A&E straight away – it was only mine and my wife’s medical backgrounds that told me the tachycardia (150+ BPM), the chest tightness and shortness of breath were all symptoms of severe stress.

Up until that day in 2016 I had a successful career as a pharmacist including many years in the NHS. I had a good reputation both within and outside the NHS. My health and that of my family was good. People may not realise that when you are charged with a criminal offence the local and national papers put your picture on the front pages; you have no idea of what’s going to happen to you and what your chances of success are; people think “there’s no smoke without fire – he must have done something to deserve this”; you think you are going to lose your house and your savings; you think (correctly) that your children will live with the stigma of having their surname plastered all over Google followed by “criminal trial” for eternity. The only thing I did know for certain was that I could be imprisoned for up to 10 years; the whole process dramatically affected my family; my reputation and career were ruined forever.

But three good things happened

I don’t mind admitting that I had some very dark thoughts. However, three very good things did happen during those 6 years.

  1. My family and friends were, almost without exception, supportive and loving. There was a tiny minority of people whom I had thought of as friends who did a runner faster than a student in a restaurant in the 1970s but everyone else I thought of as family or close friends were brilliant.
  2. Fortunately, I was a longstanding member of the PDA. The emotional and practical support were first rate. Those first phone calls to the PDA Solicitor, a lady who had a background as a criminal lawyer, were immensely helpful. I knew that there was always someone on the end of the phone who was on my side.
  3. My legal team appointed by the PDA were absolutely top notch, a partner in a London firm of Solicitors that specialised in medical cases and a QC Barrister that specialised in financial crime. The PDA helped not only with legal fees but also made their network of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical legal experts/advisors available to work with my Solicitor and Barrister.

Not Guilty verdict

The end result was a not guilty verdict for me and my co-defendants in Crown Court; at the end of the prosecution case and following a prosecution review the Crown offered no evidence; the defence cases never actually started. The Prosecution also announced that internal reviews by the CPS and NHS CFA would try to ascertain what went wrong (and whether or not the defendants should have been charged in the first place).

Life going forward

Life today is hugely different to six and a half years ago. Even though I was found not guilty it will be difficult (no, impossible) to continue with the work I was doing. However, I do not wake up with the hairs on my neck standing up; I know (health allowing) what will happen to me and my family for the next 15 years, I do not have to sell my house (although finances will be tight). In fact, I have never felt happier in my entire life. It is only because a friend of mine advised me twenty-odd years ago to get independent professional defence that I can say that; this was quite simply the best advice I ever received in my 35 years working as a pharmacist. If you will allow me to offer some advice, I respectively suggest the following: If you do not have membership of the PDA, join TODAY. You may feel you don’t need it because your employer will look after you but that will not help if, as happened with three of my NHS co-defendants, it is your employer that takes action against you.

If you have PDA membership consider is it broad enough to cover your worst-case work-related scenario? Access to defence benefits, pharmacist specialists and belonging to a trade union all underpinned by insurance is unbeatable; I know of no one working in healthcare who can readily afford a £400,000 legal bill. Advise your friends in health care not to consider independent professional representation but to actually get it – this could be the best advice they will ever receive in their professional lives.

One final thought

One final thought – life is good. I’m jealous of those that wake up to this early on without requiring the trigger of a catastrophic life event.

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2022 edition of INSIGHT, click here to read the full version.

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