’10 minutes of madness’: pharmacist struck off for sexual assault

A British pharmacist has been struck off the UK’s pharmacy register after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old who had come to the pharmacy seeking emergency contraception.

Satwant Singh Popley claimed that his “sexual immaturity” and an “unusual family dynamic” were factors which influenced his assault on the girl, in what his lawyer characterised as “10 minutes of madness”.

Popley pleaded guilty to the offence, convicted, and was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment, ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for a period of 10 years, ordered to be placed on the Barring List and to pay a victim surcharge of £100 and £200 towards the cost of the prosecution, says Fitness to Practise Information from the General Pharmaceutical Council.

In the pharmacy’s consulting room, Popley squeezed and sucked the breasts of the girl after telling her money was not what he wanted in exchange for emergency contraception.

The 17-year-old had presented to the Lloydspharmacy in Teddington Hospital asking for emergency contraception for a friend, who was unable to leave her house.

She was invited into the consulting room, where the pharmacist locked the door behind him and asked her to complete a standard questionnaire.

Popley told her she could pay £9 for the pill, go to hospital and wait three to four hours for a free prescription, go to Accident & Emergency or find another pharmacy in the area.

The girl expressed surprise, because she thought the pill was free for under-18s.

“The pharmacist said that was true but only certain pharmacists could do that,” the GPhC documents say.

When the girl said she did not have the money, the pharmacist said that there were “other options”.

“[The girl] repeated she had no money and the pharmacist said, ‘I don’t want money, that’s not what I want, you are a pretty girl’.

“In her statement she said that she said, ‘what can I give you?’ believing that he wanted something sexual because he was staring at her chest.”

The pharmacist replied, “I want to touch you,” gesturing to the girl’s crotch, but she refused; she then allowed him to touch her breasts. He then pushed down her leotard, squeezed her breasts, causing her pain, sucked one and then started to grab at the top of her jeans.

“[The girl] recites that the pharmacist handed her a £10 note and told her to go outside to the till and pay for the pill using that money.” He then gave her another £20.

On the way home the girl suffered a panic attack and collapsed. She rang her friend and reported that the pharmacist had assaulted her.

Popley was arrested that evening and denied that he had touched the girl sexually, saying she had made false allegations. Later, his DNA was found on the inside of the victim’s leotard. He was subsequently charged and pleaded guilty.

In his plea, “he accepted that he behaved inappropriately and that under the circumstances the victim’s offer was not genuine and consent was not consent, and he did not reasonably believe that she was consenting. He said that his behaviour was impulsive,” says the GPhC document.

Popley’s sentence expired in April 2016 and he was released from custody in December 2015.

At Popley’s hearing his lawyer characterised the offence as “10 minutes of madness,” but the GPhC said the conduct shows there was a risk to the wellbeing of a patient.

“There is no evidence to show that the risk has been addressed so as to lead us to consider that it has in any way been reduced, despite the passage of almost two years since the offence occurred.”

Character references presented at the hearing highlighted that Popley had never been in a relationship with a girl, and that the event had “made the registrant reconsider the challenges of living in a multicultural multi-religious society and to re-evaluate his own attitudes of belief”.

“He acknowledges and describes himself as sexually immature and naive, indeed that he was socially isolated and immature,” the GPhC chairman said in outlining the decision to strike Popley’s registration. “He was 26 at the time of the event.

“He puts his naivety and immaturity down partly to his experiences at school and partly to his religious Sikh upbringing and an unusual family dynamic in which he was the only one of six siblings to go to university and pursue a professional career.

“We were told that Mr Popley cannot explain why he behaved as he did.”

The GPhC decided that it had seen little to indicate the development of insight, and that it had “no real confidence” in the prospect that the offence would not be repeated. It decided it was “proportionate and appropriate” that Popley’s name be removed from the register.

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