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On the day of the hearing

Arrival at the RCVS

You will have been told at what time you are required to be at the RCVS (or any alternative location). Please arrive in good time, and take into account any delays which may occur to lengthen your journey time.

The receptionist will tell you where you need to go, which is usually a meeting room on the second floor of the building. Once you arrive, someone will come to see you to discuss procedure further and, if time and circumstances permit, show you the hearing room and where you will take the oath or declaration and give evidence (the witness chair).

You cannot sit in the hearing room and listen to other witnesses before giving your evidence, as this may prejudice the case. For similar reasons, we ask you not to discuss your evidence with anyone before you give it or after you have given it until the Disciplinary Committee has announced its decision.

Delays

As with any legal proceedings, it is possible that there will be delays during the day. You will be kept informed of any delay. Again, you are asked not to discuss your evidence with others during this time. On some rare occasions it may be that you will be asked to come back on the following day.

The layout of the hearing

The hearing will normally take place on the fifth floor of the RCVS building and the Clerk will come to collect you when you have been called to give your evidence.

A number of people will be present at the hearing, which takes place in public;

  1. The Disciplinary Committee – a panel of, on average, seven members - is made up of both veterinary surgeons and lay members. The Chairman (with the Legal Assessor) sits on a platform, and the rest of the Committee in a row in front of the platform.
  2. The Legal Assessor – a senior barrister - gives legal advice to the Committee during the hearing. The Legal Assessor sits next to the Chairman on the platform.
  3. The RCVS legal team – which includes the solicitor employed by the RCVS who has been liaising with you, and the external barrister who is presenting the case. They sit facing the Disciplinary Committee.
  4. The veterinary surgeon and his legal team, if any, which may include a solicitor and barrister and a member of the Veterinary Defence Society (professional indemnity insurers). In most cases, the veterinary surgeon is legally represented. They sit facing the Disciplinary Committee.
  5. The Clerk to the Disciplinary Committee who is responsible for the administration of the hearing and sits behind the Chairman and Legal Assessor.
  6. The shorthand writer – who takes a verbatim record of the proceedings.
  7. The press – as it is a public hearing, the press may attend the hearing. They sit at the back of the room and as in other legal proceedings, the taking of photographs is strictly forbidden during the hearing.

Microphone system

The room is set up with a microphone system. When speaking, it would be appreciated if you could switch your microphone on, and switch it off again when you have finished speaking; a red light will indicate that the microphone is on. If you would like assistance, or forget to switch it on, the Clerk to the Committee will be on hand to help.

The Oath or Affirmation

When you are called to give evidence, you will enter the room and walk to the witness chair and stay standing to take an oath. You will have a choice whether to swear an oath on a religious text, or take a non-religious affirmation to attest the truth of your evidence. You will be asked to repeat the words of the oath or affirmation after the Legal Assessor and then invited to take your seat, the witness chair.

Giving your evidence

The barrister for the RCVS will address you first. You will usually be asked to confirm your signature and that the witness statement remains correct. You may however be asked any other questions by way of clarification.

Questioning by the barrister on behalf of the veterinary surgeon

The barrister for the veterinary surgeon (or the veterinary surgeon if not legally represented) may then ask you questions. The barrister for the veterinary surgeon will usually want to put their client’s case forward. We are unable to confirm the nature of any questions but if you would like to discuss the process of giving evidence in general, please let us know.

There may then be questions from the Disciplinary Committee members and this may take place after a short period of adjournment, whilst the Committee members consider the questions they want to ask you.

Adjournments

It may be necessary for the hearing to adjourn from time to time, for lunch, or for the Committee to consider the questions the members want to ask. During these periods, it is again extremely important that you do not talk to anyone about the case, or the evidence you are giving or are about to give; this includes anyone involved with the case, as well as family and friends.

After giving evidence

Once you have finished giving your evidence and have been released as a witness, you are free to leave the building. Should you wish to do so, you can remain in the hearing room and listen to the rest of the hearing. If so, you will be directed to the public seating, at the back of the room. As previously explained, to avoid prejudicing the hearing process, we ask that you do not speak to anyone about your evidence until the Committee has announced its final decision regarding the whole case.