Skip to content

Disciplinary Committee suspends Essex vet for two months

24 April 2017

The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has directed the Registrar to suspend an Essex-based veterinary surgeon from the Register for two months for failing to have professional indemnity insurance (PII) or equivalent arrangements in compliance with the Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons.

The Disciplinary Committee hearing for Anne Mary Mullen took place on Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 April 2017. This followed a concern raised with the College in December 2015 by a member of the public relating to the respondent’s practice in Essex. Although that concern was not pursued further by the College, during the initial investigation period it was ascertained by an RCVS case manager that, contrary to the requirements of the Code of Professional Conduct, Mrs Mullen did not have PII.

In January 2016 Mrs Mullen was advised by the College that, in order to comply with the Code, she needed to ensure her professional activities were covered by PII or equivalent arrangements. The matter was considered by the Preliminary Investigation Committee which asked, in October 2016, that Mrs Mullen produce evidence that she was now compliant with the requirement to have PII or equivalent. Mrs Mullen responded in November 2016 confirming that she had not put in place such arrangements and in January 2017 the case was referred to the Disciplinary Committee.

During the hearing it was determined that, during the relevant time period (from November 2015 to November 2016) Mrs Mullen was practising but did not have professional indemnity insurance in place and therefore was in breach of the Code.

During the hearing Mrs Mullen, who represented herself, told the Committee that she admitted that she did not have PII. She explained that she was ‘ethically and morally opposed to it’ as she felt that it did not give fair compensation to claimants and did not know it was a requirement of the Code of Professional Conduct until she was informed by the College in January 2016. 

The respondent failed to have PII in place for a period of about 12 months as specified in the charges. Moreover, she failed to remedy the situation when advised in January 2016 by the College that she was in breach of the Code and the supporting guidance."

When giving oral evidence as to equivalent arrangements she disclosed that she kept significant funds in a bank account; these were not however specifically earmarked for use in the event of any possible claims, and were also required to pay practice expenses.

In light of evidence produced by the College and her own admissions, the charges against Mrs Mullen were found proved and she was found guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.

In coming to this decision Chitra Karve, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The respondent failed to have PII in place for a period of about 12 months as specified in the charges. Moreover, she failed to remedy the situation when advised in January 2016 by the College that she was in breach of the Code and the supporting guidance.

"This remains a continuous course of conduct, which has still not been remedied. The respondent has chosen not to read the Code, or the supporting guidance, until very recently, in relation to her obligation to have PII or equivalent arrangements in place, and she failed to heed the advice of the College that she must rectify the position.”

In considering the sanction the Committee took into account mitigating and aggravating factors. Aggravating factors included the fact that the misconduct was sustained over a significant period of time and that limited insight was shown by Mrs Mullen. While she did begin to display limited insight into the significance of her misconduct, the Committee said that this insight was “hampered by her ambivalence towards the College and the systems that regulate the veterinary profession.”

In mitigation the Committee took into account Mrs Mullen’s long and unblemished career and the fact she was a sole practitioner who reported challenging personal circumstances and provided a unique service to a niche group of clients.

However, Chitra Karve said: “The Committee is unable to overlook the Respondent’s lack of commitment to obtaining PII or equivalent arrangements, even after being advised by the College that this was essential. The Committee is aware that a suspension could adversely affect her practice and her clients that she uniquely serves. However the Committee thinks it is necessary to send a clear message to the respondent and the public, that failure to obtain PII or equivalent arrangements is wholly unacceptable.”

She added: “Accordingly, the Committee directs the Registrar to suspend the respondent’s registration for a period of two months. The Committee considers that this period of suspension will give the respondent an opportunity to rectify her breaches of the Code in relation to PII… and to reflect upon her attitude towards the College and the appropriate regulation of the veterinary profession.”

Read more news