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RCVS Disciplinary Committee directs Suffolk vet be struck off

28 July 2014

The Disciplinary Committee of the RCVS has [on Thursday 24 July 2014] directed that a Suffolk vet be struck off from the Register after he was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in respect of five separate charges relating to the possession of extreme animal pornography and sexual activity with animals.

Oliver Fraser Lown, who graduated from Szent Istvan University in Hungary and has stated that he has never practised in the UK, did not attend the Disciplinary Committee hearing but was represented by Mr Jo Cooper, a solicitor-advocate. He was accused of five charges of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect:

    1. On 1 September 2011 he was in possession of extreme pornographic video images which portrayed people performing acts of intercourse with animals and, in relation to which, on 13 April 2012 at the Northallerton and Richmond Magistrates’ Court, he pleaded guilty to seven charges and was conditionally discharged.
    2. On 1 September 2011 he was in possession of sexually explicit still images involving animals.
    3. On 1 September 2011 he was in possession of a sexually explicit video image of a man having sexual intercourse with a sheep.
    4. Between approximately 1 April 2009 and 25 June 2009 he engaged in sexual activity with animals.
    5. On July 2011 and/or August 2011, he engaged in written communication via a computer messaging facility in which he made reference to sexual activity with animals and/or interest in the same.

On the first day of the hearing [Monday 21 July 2014] the respondent made an application to the Disciplinary Committee that the hearing should be held in private on the basis that any publicity about the case ‘would offend public morality’ due to the nature of the allegations and because the respondent’s father suffers from ill-health, which could be adversely affected by any publicity.

In these circumstances, the Committee has no doubt that the respondent’s conduct was of the utmost seriousness. The material found in possession of the respondent and his own conduct in charge 4 involved the abuse of animals and a total lack of respect for their welfare.”

However, the Committee rejected the application on the grounds that the nature of the allegations was already in the public domain and that public justice in the context of professional regulation outweighed the private concerns of the respondent regarding his father.

On the second day of the hearing [Tuesday 22 July 2014] the respondent made an application to adjourn charges 2 – 5 on the basis that he had already admitted, and received a conditional discharge, for the first charge and would, therefore, not oppose removal from the Register and an undertaking never to re-apply.

The respondent also argued that the original decision of the College to register him in July 2013 was flawed because it was unfair to admit him, in awareness of his conditional discharge, apparently for the purpose of taking disciplinary proceedings against him. He also referred to the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute him in respect of charge 4.

This application was dismissed by the Disciplinary Committee on the grounds of the gravity of charges 2 – 5 and the fact that the respondent chose to apply to join the Register and had been advised to seek legal advice regarding his conditional discharge beforehand.

Furthermore, the Disciplinary Committee heard that there was no error at the time of his registration because the conditional discharge was not a conviction and therefore, under the Veterinary Surgeons Act, there was no option to refuse registration.

On the afternoon of Tuesday 22 July the respondent made a final application to have the case adjourned on the grounds that new documentation he had received the previous day regarding his registration had led his lawyers to conclude that the decision to register him may have been unlawful. However, the Disciplinary Committee said that, in its understanding, the RCVS Registrar had no option but to register Mr Lown.

The Disciplinary Committee then dismissed the application on the grounds that any challenge of the validity of registration could and should have been made within the three month time limit for judicial review and that no significant new documentation about Mr Lown’s registration had come to light that could reasonably be said to have triggered a judicial review and warrant an adjournment. It also again highlighted the gravity of the charges.

In the judgement of the Committee each of the charges individually amounts to disgraceful conduct and the charges certainly amount to disgraceful conduct when taken cumulatively.

The Disciplinary Committee then heard evidence in relation to charges 2 -5, including that of two officers from North Yorkshire Police who took part in the original investigation, who the Committee found to be credible and reliable witnesses, and, after reviewing the evidence, found that all four charges were proven.

The Committee then considered the appropriate sanction for Mr Lown, and took into account a number of aggravating factors including the risk of injury to animals, premeditated misconduct, sexual misconduct, misconduct sustained or repeated over a period of time and his lack of insight into the offences or his overall conduct.

Professor Noreen Burrows, chairing the Disciplinary Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “In these circumstances, the Committee has no doubt that the respondent’s conduct was of the utmost seriousness. The material found in possession of the respondent and his own conduct in charge 4 involved the abuse of animals and a total lack of respect for their welfare. In the judgement of the Committee each of the charges individually amounts to disgraceful conduct and the charges certainly amount to disgraceful conduct when taken cumulatively.”

In order to safeguard animal welfare, maintain public confidence in the profession and uphold proper standards of conduct, the Disciplinary Committee directed the Registrar to remove Mr Lown’s name from the Register.

The Committee’s full findings and decision can be read in full online.

 

Please note:

1.  This summary is provided to assist in understanding the RCVS Disciplinary Committee’s decision. It does not form part of the reasons for the decision. The Committee’s full findings and decision is the only authoritative document. The charges available online are a summary only, due to the sensitive nature of the case. More detailed charges were made available to the Committee.

2.  The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK and sets, upholds and advances veterinary standards, so as to enhance society through improved animal health and welfare.

3.  RCVS disciplinary powers are exercised through the Preliminary Investigation and Disciplinary Committees. The RCVS has authority to deal with three types of case:

a.  Fraudulent registration

b.  Criminal convictions

c.  Allegations of disgraceful professional conduct

4.  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.

5.  The burden of proving an allegation falls upon the RCVS, and the RCVS must prove to the standard that the Committee is sure.

6.  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.

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