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- Frequently Asked Questions
- Disclosing convictions and/or adverse findings
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- Additional training and resources
- Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons
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- I want to raise a concern about a veterinary surgeon
- I want to raise a concern about a registered veterinary nurse
- Confidential Reporting Line
What happens once convictions are disclosed to the RCVS?
For those already registered with the RCVS
The Registrar will consider all declarations made and may seek guidance from external lawyers.
What happens next will depend on the nature and seriousness of the offence. Where there is an arguable case that the conviction/adverse finding may affect your fitness to practise (ie amount to serious professional misconduct), it will be referred to the Preliminary Investigation Committee. Those where there is no arguable case will be recorded against your name, and there will be no further action by the RCVS.
In deciding if there is an arguable case, the Registrar will take into account:
- the nature and seriousness of the offence;
- the sentence imposed (was it high or low on any available tariff for sentencing);
- any sentencing remarks made by the court);
- the extent and nature of any risk or harm to animals or the public from the offending behaviour;
- the date and length of time since the offence (the longer ago it was, the less likely the matter will be referred if it indicates that the risk of reoffending is low or diminishing, particularly if the time has been used positively);
- the period of time over which offences were committed;
- whether any period of a suspended sentence is outstanding;
- relevance of the offence to professional standards and conduct;
- the veterinary surgeon’s character and conduct since the offence, including the risks of reoffending and the seriousness of the consequences of reoffending while giving due consideration to appropriate positive behaviour; and
- the impact that such an offence could have on public confidence in the profession.
The Registrar will also consider if there is evidence of a pattern of offending or if any aggravating features apply, as follows:
- Actual injury to an animal or human
- Risk of injury to an animal or human
- Premeditated misconduct
- Financial gain
- Breach of confidentiality or client trust
- The involvement of a vulnerable client
- Sexual misconduct
- Any relevant increased position of trust or responsibility
- Misconduct sustained or repeated over a period of time
- Conduct contravening advice issued by the RCVS, including the Preliminary Investigation Committee and Professional Conduct Department, or other appropriate authority
- Blatant or wilful disregard of the role of the RCVS and the systems that regulate the veterinary profession
- No insight into the offence or disgraceful conduct
- Previous convictions
- Previous adverse findings of the Disciplinary Committee
- Previous findings of another regulator or similar body
Any relevant mitigating factors will also be taken into account. Depending on the nature of the offence, these might include:
- The circumstances of the incident, including promoting the health or welfare of an animal
- No actual harm or any risk of harm to an animal or human
- No financial gain
- Whether the incident was single and isolated
- Ill-health at the time at which the disgraceful conduct, or criminal offence, was committed
- Subsequent efforts to avoid a repetition of such behaviour
- Significant lapse of time since the incident
- Demonstration of insight into the offence or disgraceful conduct committed
Cautions are less likely to be referred to the Preliminary Investigation Committee, as are minor road traffic convictions, such as exceeding the speed limit or contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations. However, road traffic offences such as causing death through careless driving when unfit through drink/drugs are likely to be referred to the Preliminary Investigation Committee.
Individual cases will be decided on their own merits and facts. However, the purpose of this guidance is to set out examples of convictions/adverse findings which are likely to result in referral to the Preliminary Investigation Committee and the factors that can determine their seriousness, and thus the likely outcome.
The examples set out in this document are intended to form guidance only, and are not exhaustive.
While each case will be considered on its own merits, convictions that will generally be referred to the Preliminary Investigation Committee are those involving:
- Inappropriate care or management of animals (for example, offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (which applies in England and Wales), the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 or the Welfare of Animals (Northern Ireland) Act 2011)
- Violence (for example, common assault, ABH, GBH)
- Dishonesty (for example, shoplifting, fraud, theft)
- Inappropriate sexual behaviour
- Drink driving
- Medicines and drugs
- Discrimination, particularly racial discrimination
The Registrar may request further information or clarification from you or from others regarding any matter pertaining to the conviction. All cases are considered confidentially by the Registrar.
The Registrar, having considered the matter, will give his decision whether to refer the case to the Preliminary Investigation Committee or whether the case should be closed. You will be notified of the decision in writing. There is more information about the Preliminary Investigation Committee stage later in this document.
The Preliminary Investigation Committee will consider whether there is a realistic prospect that the veterinary surgeon is unfit to practise as a result of the conviction/adverse finding or that the conviction/adverse finding may amount to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect (‘serious professional misconduct’). It will consider the nature and seriousness of the offence and also any aggravating or mitigating factors as above.
The RCVS recognises that sometimes it will be in the public interest for veterinary surgeons suffering from adverse health to be helped through the Health Protocol, without referring the case to the Disciplinary Committee for a formal hearing. Generally, it is more appropriate to take a ‘health approach’ in cases involving health problems. More information about the RCVS Health Protocol is available online at www.rcvs.org.uk/health.
If the Preliminary Investigation Committee decides that there is no realistic prospect of the conviction/adverse finding rendering you unfit to practise, or amounting to serious professional misconduct, the case will be closed. You may receive advice from the Committee.
If the Preliminary Investigation Committee decides that there is a realistic prospect of the conviction/adverse finding rendering you unfit to practise, or of the conviction/adverse finding amounting to serious professional misconduct, the case will be referred to the Disciplinary
Committee and there will be a formal hearing (an Inquiry).
The Disciplinary Committee will be required to decide whether the nature and circumstances of the offence are such as to render you unfit to practise veterinary surgery.
Detailed information on the make up and working of the Preliminary Investigation Committee and Disciplinary Committee can be found on the RCVS website at www.rcvs.org.uk/concerns.
For those applying to join the Register the first time / be restored to the Register
The Registrar will consider all applications, in strict confidence, and decide whether you are suitable for registration. The Registrar may seek guidance from external lawyers. Applications are dealt with on a case by cases basis and decided on their own merits.
However, in deciding whether, despite a conviction, you are suitable for registration (ie fit to practise) the Registrar will take into account the factors set out in paragraphs 27-30 above.
The Registrar may require you to support your application with additional information or seek additional information from others regarding the application.
If the Registrar decides that you are not suitable for registration, and refuses your application, you will be notified in writing within three months of receipt of your application. You will be provided with reasons for the decision and with information on your right of appeal.
In exceptional circumstances, the Registrar may decide that it would be appropriate to allow your registration and refer consideration of a conviction/adverse finding to the Preliminary Investigation Committee.