Pharmacist struck off over illicit images of kids

A NZ pharmacist who regularly downloaded and printed out dozens of child sex abuse images at his workplace has been struck off

Geoffrey Clifford Allen had a 10-year habit of staying behind at work so he could look for abusive material involving children on the internet, which he would then print out and store behind a cupboard in the office of a New Plymouth pharmacy.

By his own estimation, Allen printed out 12 images two or three times a week, the New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal was told in late 2016.

Police were notified 10 years into the practice by an employee of the pharmacy’s document destruction service, who found images Allen had thrown away with the rubbish.

Allen, 62 years old at the time of the hearing, had been practising as a pharmacist in New Zealand since 1976.

He was brought to court charged with 17 counts of possessing objectionable publications relating to the exploitation of children between 1 January 2014 and 24 June 2014, to which he pleaded guilty.

In December 2015, he was sentenced in court to seven months’ home detention.

The New Zealand tribunal held a disciplinary hearing to decide on an appropriate penalty for the health practitioner.

Through the course of the proceedings, it was discovered Allen had lost his marriage and job, only had limited contact with his children, and had no contact with his grandchildren due to his conduct.

He currently works in garden maintenance on a part-time basis, for minimum wage.

A Professional Conduct Committee appointed by The Pharmacy Council of New Zealand emphasised that Allen was the responsible pharmacist in the pharmacy; the conduct occurred in the pharmacy using the pharmacy’s office equipment; the images involved were at the more serious end of the spectrum; and the victims were children and therefore particularly vulnerable.

While Allen had voluntarily undertaken a six-month treatment program since his conviction, and those administering the program had offered the view that his risk of reoffending was low, the tribunal found that Allen’s conduct was “extremely serious” and “brought disrepute to the pharmacy profession as a whole”.

“Our perception is that if the Practitioner were permitted to retain his registration in the face of these convictions, the public’s confidence in the profession would be seriously compromised,” it stated in a decision.

“The Tribunal accepts that the Practitioner is entitled to credit for his years of service to the profession and his hitherto unblemished record. Indeed, these factors caused us some difficulty in reaching the conclusion that we have. In the end, however, the seriousness of the Practitioner’s breach of the legal, professional and moral standards to which the public is entitled to expect pharmacists to adhere, and the demands of the protection of the public and the maintenance of professional standards outweighed these considerations.”

It ordered Allen’s registration, which he had held for 38 years, be cancelled.

After hearing that he now had no assets, liabilities of about $30,000 and an income of just over $400 a week, it was decided he would not have to pay half of the conduct committee’s $11,000 costs, and was ordered to pay $500.

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