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Disciplinary Committee - proposed case management protocol consultation

This consultation has now closed.

Summary

The Case Management Protocol (‘the Protocol’) supplements the Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Practitioners (Disciplinary Committee) (Procedure and Evidence) Rules Order of Council 2004 (‘the Rules’) (‘the Rules’) by setting out standard procedural directions for cases to be heard by the Disciplinary Committee with the aim of promoting the timely and efficient preparation of cases and the smooth running of hearings.

This is in the interests of all parties and the Disciplinary Committee. 

 

Introduction

The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (‘the Act’) sets out the powers and functions which Parliament has granted to the RCVS to regulate the veterinary profession and veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom.

In order to carry out the regulatory function, the Act establishes a Disciplinary Committee to hear cases referred to it by the RCVS Preliminary Investigation Committee and provides the Disciplinary Committee with statutory powers to remove or restrict a veterinary surgeon’s right to practise if he is found guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect or found guilty of a conviction that renders him unfit to practise.

The function of the Disciplinary Committee is set out Section 15 of the Act, which at Section 15(2) reads:

15(2) “There shall continue to be a committee of the Council known as the Disciplinary Committee charged with the duty of considering and determining

(a) any disciplinary case referred to them by the Preliminary Investigation Committee; and

(b) any other case of which the Disciplinary Committee has cognisance under Section 18 of the Act (Restoration of Members to the Register)”                                                                                                           

In the proper exercise of its function, the Disciplinary Committee must also adhere to the Statutory Rules governing the procedural aspects of its hearings.

These include the Rules and the Veterinary Surgeons (Disciplinary Proceedings) Legal Assessor Rules 1967.

The Rules outline the format of the hearing and available sanctions.  However, the Rules do not cover every situation and provide that the Disciplinary Committee has the right to determine the procedure for any aspect of the proceedings where there is no specific provision in the Rules.

The Disciplinary Committee has previously introduced additional guidance to supplement the Statutory Rules: Guidance on the Disciplinary Committee’s purpose and function, decision-making, indicative outcomes and sanctions, reasons for decisions and procedures in December 2009, revised January 2010; and a Manual giving guidance on the constitution and referral of cases to the Committee, the role of the Chairman, Legal Assessor and Clerk, members’ responsibilities and an introduction to Committee procedures.

 

Reason for the Protocol

The Disciplinary Committee’s practice has been to read witness statements and other evidence before the hearing and the Disciplinary Committee Manual states that: 

76 In advance of the hearing, the members of the Committee are provided with the following information, the Notice of Inquiry, whether the Respondent admits the charge or not, and, if agreed between the parties, bundles of evidence and skeleton arguments. In practice what is to be included in the bundle of evidence from the RCVS is usually agreed by the parties, where it is not, the evidence which the Respondent does not agree should be in the bundle is not included. It is unusual for skeleton arguments or the Respondent's bundle of evidence to be provided in advance of the hearing.

77 The Legal Assessor is provided with the material made available to the Committee and may also be provided with other evidence from either the RCVS or the Respondent, for example, where there is a dispute as to the admissibility of the evidence.

The practice of pre-reading evidence and skeleton arguments has assisted the management and efficiency of hearings, to the benefit of all parties. 

The Disciplinary Committee considers that it is appropriate to provide additional guidance to all parties and to ensure that evidence is agreed or considered well before the hearing.

The Disciplinary Committee also intends to provide for the situation where one party objects to the pre-reading of evidence or skeleton arguments or fails to respond to the other party’s enquiries on this question.

The Protocol includes provision for the Legal Assessor to advise in these circumstances so that pre-reading cannot be prevented unreasonably. 

 

Responses

The Disciplinary Committee would welcome your comments on the Protocol.

If you would like to comment or have any questions, please contact Carrie Gage, Clerk to the Disciplinary Committee on c.gage@rcvs.org.uk

The deadline for comments on the Protocol is 5pm on Monday, 8 August 2011.

 

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