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The referral of cases

A case may be referred to the DC where the veterinary surgeon’s alleged conduct or behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with his or her being a veterinary surgeon. This may involve any of the following (the list is not exhaustive):

  1. Very poor professional performance where there are serious departures from standards as set out in the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct;
  2. Offences of a sexual nature;
  3. Offences involving violence and/or loss of human life;
  4. Evidence of a harmful deep-seated personality or attitude problem; and/or
  5. Dishonesty (including false certification), particularly where persistent or concealed.

The ‘realistic prospect’ test applies to both the factual allegations and whether, if established, the facts would amount to serious professional misconduct (or, for convictions, render the veterinary surgeon unfit to practise). It reflects not a probability but rather a genuine (not remote or fanciful) possibility. It is in no-one’s interest for a case to be referred to the DC when it is bound to fail, and the PIC may properly decline to refer such cases. Equally, cases which indicate serious professional misconduct are for the DC to decide upon.

The following is not an exhaustive list, but the PIC:

  1. Should bear in mind that the standard of proof before the DC is tantamount to the criminal standard, ie so that it is ‘sure’;
  2. Is entitled to assess the weight of the evidence, whilst recognising that its role is not to decide or resolve conflicts of evidence in an attempt to decide whether a veterinary surgeon is guilty of serious professional misconduct;
  3. Should proceed with caution given that, among other considerations, the PIC will work from documents and reports of investigations and will not have the opportunity to hear the responses to questioning, either from the person raising the concerns or the veterinary surgeon involved.
  4. Should proceed with particular caution in reaching a decision to close a case where the decision may be perceived as inconsistent with a decision made by another authority;
  5. When considering the public interest to refer a case to the DC, is entitled to consider a veterinary surgeon’s practising status; and, that a greater interest to take a case forward exists where the veterinary surgeon continues to practise;
  6. Should bear in mind that generally it is more appropriate to take a medical approach to cases involving medical problems;
  7. Should only refer to the DC health or poor professional performance if the case is sufficiently serious that there is a real prospect of establishing serious professional misconduct; and,
  8. Should bear in mind that while there is a public interest in veterinary surgeons not being harassed by unfounded concerns, there is also a public interest in the DC hearing cases which do have a real prospect of establishing serious professional misconduct.