Chemist 'not adequately defended'

Last updated 13:08 10/07/2012

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An Auckland pharmacist has today appealed the findings of the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal which last year deregistered him and ordered him to pay $78,428.

Arief Katamat, who was bankrupted and lost his three pharmacies, was accused failing to keep proper records.

An audit found that 26,261 Sudomyl tablets and 25,535 codeine tables, which can be used to make P and homebake heroin, had not been accounted for.

But in an appeal on sentence before Justice Joe Williams today, Katamat's now legal aid lawyer, Frances Joychild, argued he had been poorly represented at the hearing.

Katamat had accepted his poor record keeping but claimed staff were involved in a fraud over the precursor drugs.

The tribunal, Justice Williams suggested, did not believe Katamat.

"They thought he was lying and creating fantasies."

Joychild said they had been "extremely punitive" toward him.

She said the tribunal members should have stepped in when it became aware that his then lawyer was not adequately defending him.

Katamat was punished for the errors his lawyer had made.

Asked by Justice Williams what she expected a tribunal to do, she said that with much tighter legal aid, it was now imperative that bodies recognise the consequences.

"They have to be aware that, that is all a person can afford," she said.

Tribunals and courts need to ensure accused people have access to justice even if they cannot afford a highly trained lawyer.

"Mr Katamat is a drastic case of what is happening in many courts and tribunals," Joychild said.

The case is proceeding.

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