Newsletters Professional Discipline 5th Apr 2024

The long road from Jerusalem: Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care v General Pharmaceutical Council, Nazim Hussain Ali [2024] EWHC 577 (Admin)

On the 18th of June 2017, Mr Nazim Ali, a pharmacist, led the annual ‘Al-Quds’ (‘Jerusalem’ in Arabic) rally in support of the Palestinian cause through central London, as he had done several times before. It was a hot day and passions ran high, both among the marchers and counter-protesters supporting Israel.

Mr Ali led chants through a loudhailer, including the now infamous phrase “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” He repeatedly attempted to distinguish, though, between Zionism and Judaism, chanting “Judaism is OK, Zionism No Way’ and ‘Judaism Yes, Zionism No”.

In a few instances, however, Mr Ali’s remarks crossed the line into objectively antisemitic territory. For example, he said that “Any Zionist, any Jew coming into your centre supporting Israel, any Jew coming into your centre who is a Zionist. Any Jew coming into your centre who is a member for the Board of Deputies, is not a Rabbi, he’s an imposter.” The march was just four days after the Grenfell fire. Mr Ali commented “They are responsible for the murder of the people in Grenfell. The Zionist supporters of the Tory Party.

The legal consequences of these transgressions were to drag on for nearly seven years. First of all, the Campaign Against Antisemitism brought a private prosecution against Mr Ali under s. 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, but this was taken over and discontinued by the DPP. A judicial review of that decision was rejected.[1]

Thereafter the GPhC gave careful consideration to their regulatory response to Mr Ali’s remarks. They decided to charge Mr Ali with making four remarks which were said to be offensive and antisemitic. These were the two already quoted and “‘It’s in their genes. The Zionists are here to occupy Regent Street. It’s in their genes, it’s in their genetic code.” and “European alleged Jews. Remember brothers and sisters, Zionists are not Jews.” It was not alleged that he intended any of these remarks to be antisemitic, rather that he allowed himself to be carried away in the heat of the moment.

I was instructed to represent the GPhC after the initial charging decision (previous counsel having been elevated to the bench) and wholly agreed with it. I presented the case at a Fitness to Practise Committee hearing in the autumn of 2020. Mr Ali accepted that his words were offensive but denied that they were antisemitic. The Committee on that occasion found that none of them were, but they applied a partially subjective test, despite being repeatedly urged that the test was purely objective.

Nevertheless, they gave Mr Ali a warning, which was the only sanction the GPhC had suggested. However, the PSA decided to exercise their power of appeal and the High Court remitted the case for the Committee to reconsider their decision, applying the correct test.[2]

I presented the case again before the Committee in August 2023. This time, the Committee decided that the first two remarks above were objectively antisemitic but the other two were not. Again, they imposed a warning as suggested by the GPhC.

To my surprise, the PSA appealed again, this time arguing that the sanction was insufficient. They had not previous alleged that Mr Ali was undercharged, and they did not do so now either. Nonetheless, their Grounds of Appeal suggested that conditions of practice should have been imposed and that the Committee gave insufficient reasons. By the time of the hearing, they were arguing for suspension as well.

We replied that conditions were inappropriate, as the Committee had found full remediation and no risk of repetition, and that the reasons given were sufficient. The basis argued for suspension was effectively that Mr Ali should have been sanctioned as though the remarks were intended to be antisemitic. This was impermissible, given the limited allegation. Mr Ali chose to be neither present nor represented at the second appeal, which took place in early March this year.

In deciding on how to charge Mr Ali, the GPhC had taken into account the registrant’s protected right to free expression of political speech. The Court’s judgment gives support to this approach noting that “legal frameworks, whether in the criminal or in the regulatory sphere, must be interpreted and applied so as to avoid the “chilling” of legitimate political speech, which attracts the highest level of protection under Article 10 ECHR”.[3]

The PSA’s appeal was dismissed and Mr Ali’s long litigation journey finally came to an end. Apart from emphasising this important principle, the case is an interesting example of the Court refusing an arguably overzealous PSA appeal. The factual background to this matter is currently more politically controversial than ever, but this should not, and did not, influence the way the case was either brought or decided.


Andrew Colman


[1] R (Campaign Against Antisemitism) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2019] EWHC 9 (Admin)

[2] Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care v General Pharmaceutical Council [2021] EWHC 1692 (Admin)

[3] Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care v General Pharmaceutical Council and Ali [2024] EWHC 577 (Admin), at 62

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