11 January 2010
The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons last week decided that a Lincolnshire-based veterinary surgeon should not be restored to the RCVS Register, having previously struck him off for disgraceful professional conduct, as it was not convinced that he accepted the seriousness of its finding.
In October 2007, Robert Morris, of Brant Broughton, near Lincoln, was removed from the Register having been found guilty of falsely certifying a horse to be fit for sale, despite knowing that it had a respiratory problem that could prejudice its use in the future by its new owners.
At the hearing, which concluded on 7 January, the Disciplinary Committee focused on several areas. On the day following the Committee’s decision in October 2007, Mr Morris had falsely certified that two horses had been fully vaccinated every six months by his practice, when he did not know that this was the case.
On two occasions during September and October of 2009, he had held himself out to be a veterinary surgeon, including examining, diagnosing and treating animals (horses and dogs).
These issues, together with the fact that Mr Morris told the Committee that he was not fully familiar with the Twelve Principles of Certification, as set out in the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct, led the Committee to believe that Mr Morris did not understand the seriousness of his conviction for disgraceful professional conduct.
The Committee also felt that there was a risk to future welfare of animals and protection of the public arising from Mr Morris’ failure to understand the importance of certification.
That he remained unfamiliar with the veterinary medicines regulations (and had been convicted at Grantham Magistrates Court on 1 November 2007 for possession of unauthorised veterinary medicinal products on 7 March 2006), was also taken as relevant in this regard.
The Committee also took into account the fact that Mr Morris had undertaken only limited continuing professional development since his removal, and it was concerned that it had not been presented with sufficient evidence to confirm Mr Morris’ assertion that he no longer suffers from an alcohol problem.
Chairing the Disciplinary Committee, Mrs Alison Bruce, said: “In the light of its finding that Mr Morris does not fully understand the importance of accurate certification, nor of practising as a veterinary surgeon when he was not entitled to do so, the Committee considers that there is a risk to the future welfare of animals in the event of his name being restored to the Register.”
She went on to add that in the case of veterinary surgeons continuing to work in a practice when struck off: “It is fully appreciated that veterinary practices may be owned and managed by lay people, however there must be a clear distinction between managing or working within a veterinary practice and practising veterinary medicine.
"It is of particular importance that any member who has been removed should recognise the difference between these activities. A member who has been removed must refrain from examining animals, making diagnoses or performing treatments, even under the direction of another veterinary surgeon, this includes giving veterinary advice.”
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Notes for Editors
1. The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the UK and deals with issues of professional misconduct, maintaining the register of veterinary surgeons eligible to practise in the UK and assuring standards of veterinary education.
2. RCVS disciplinary powers are exercised through the Preliminary Investigation and Disciplinary Committees, established in accordance with Schedule 2 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (the 1966 Act). The RCVS has authority to deal with three types of case:
a) Fraudulent registration
b) Criminal convictions
c) Allegations of disgraceful professional conduct
3. The Disciplinary Committee is a constituted judicial tribunal under the 1966 Act and follows rules of evidence similar to those used in a court of law.
4. The burden of proving an allegation falls upon the RCVS, and the RCVS must prove to the standard that the Committee is sure.
5. A respondent veterinary surgeon may appeal a Disciplinary Committee decision to the Privy Council within 28 days of the date of the decision. If no appeal is received, the Committee’s judgment takes effect after this period.
6. Further information, including the original charges against Mr Morris and the Committee’s findings at that time, plus the decision made this week, can be found via www.rcvs.org.uk/disciplinary.