Disciplinary Committee suspends Morayshire-registered vet for dishonesty

31 January 2019

The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has suspended a veterinary surgeon based in the County of Moray from the Register for nine months for being misleading and dishonest in relation to her treatment of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in March 2017.

The hearing for Dr Jacqueline Bohnen took place from Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 January 2019 in relation to two charges against her. The first charge was that, between 7.30pm on Saturday 18 March 2017 and 10.30am on Sunday 19 March 2017, she failed to attend to Belle, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in order to provide appropriate and adequate care including: assisting Belle with urination; monitoring her with a view to considering alternative treatment options; and, monitoring Belle with a view to providing her owners with an update on her condition.

The second charge was that, between 18 March 2017 and 31 March 2017, Dr Bohnen had represented that she had attended to Belle on 18 March 2017 between 9pm and 10pm; on Sunday 19 March at around 6am; and on the same day around 9am, when she had not in fact done so and was therefore misleading and dishonest. More particularly the charges stated that she had made these misleading and dishonest statements in clinical records, hospital records, in conversation with the owners both in person and on the telephone, in a note provided to colleagues and during internal disciplinary proceedings held at her practice.

At the outset of the hearing the Committee considered a recent application from Dr Bohnen, by email, for the hearing to be postponed as she was now based in her home country of South Africa, and said she could not apply for a visa to return to the UK until later in the year and internet access in her location was poor. The College opposed this application and submitted its own application that the inquiry should proceed in Dr Bohnen’s absence.

The Committee considered Dr Bohnen’s application for postponement first, with the Committee finding that the RCVS had properly served the notice of inquiry to Dr Bohnen in accordance with the current rules, that she had had sufficient time and opportunity to apply for a visa since receiving the notice and that, in any case, she could remotely ‘attend’ the hearing via Skype or telephone if necessary by travelling to somewhere that did have adequate internet connectivity, and so it refused the application. The Committee also accepted the College’s application to proceed in the absence of the respondent on the basis that the Notice of Inquiry was properly served and that it would be in the interests of justice to do so.

The Disciplinary Committee then went on to consider the facts of the case and heard evidence from the owners of Belle, the clinical director of the practice that Dr Bohnen worked in at the relevant time and a veterinary nurse, who was a student doing her training at the practice during the time of the events in question. Having considered all of the evidence, the Committee dismissed the parts of the first charge relating to considering alternative treatment options and updating the owners in relation to Belle’s condition. They did, however, find the charge proven in relation to Dr Bohnen failing to assist Belle with urination.

The Committee found all aspects of the second charge proven in its entirety after Dr Bohnen admitted in advance of the hearing, that her representations were false and misleading.

“The Committee considers that the respondent’s dishonesty was the prime aggravating factor in this case. Although overall it could be regarded as a single incident, the Committee has found that it involved the fabrication of a number of notes and clinical records in the immediate aftermath of the death of the dog, but, thereafter, the respondent continued to deny the falsity of the fabricated records that she had created up to and until the conclusion of her interview by the practice on 30 March 2017," Professor Alistair Barr, Disciplinary Committee.

The Committee then went on to consider whether the second charge and the aspects of the first charge that were found proven amounted to serious professional misconduct both individually and cumulatively. The Committee considered that Dr Bohnen’s conduct in failing to assist Belle with urination, whilst falling below the standard to be expected of a reasonably competent veterinary surgeon, did not amount to serious professional misconduct.

The Committee did however find that Dr Bohnen’s conduct with regards to the second charge constituted serious professional misconduct. Professor Alistair Barr, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee considers that the respondent’s dishonesty was the prime aggravating factor in this case. Although overall it could be regarded as a single incident, the Committee has found that it involved the fabrication of a number of notes and clinical records in the immediate aftermath of the death of the dog, but, thereafter, the respondent continued to deny the falsity of the fabricated records that she had created up to and until the conclusion of her interview by the practice on 30 March 2017.

“During that time, the respondent had contacted the alarm company responsible for the security of the premises of the practice, to enquire whether the security system would record the times of the alarm being switched on and off. This indicated that the respondent’s dishonesty continued over a significant period of time, and that her persistence in sticking to her story became premeditated. In other words, the respondent’s conduct over this time indicated a clear attempt to deceive.”

“Because of the seriousness of this case, the Committee did not consider that it was appropriate to postpone judgement, take no further action, or to administer a reprimand and warning as to future conduct. The Committee considered that the respondent’s conduct, involving significant and admitted dishonesty over a period of time, required a significant penalty, in order to protect the welfare of animals and to serve the public interest," Professor Alistair Barr, Disciplinary Committee 

 

Regarding the sanction for Dr Bohnen, the Committee considered that the principle aggravating factors in the case were serious dishonesty towards both her colleagues and the owners of the dog and involved clear breaches of the Code of Professional Conduct. By way of mitigation, the Committee noted that Dr Bohnen is of previous good character with no other professional findings against her and that she had demonstrated some insight into her behaviour and had admitted being dishonest and misleading prior to the hearing.

In summing up and deciding upon the sanction, Professor Barr commented: “Because of the seriousness of this case, the Committee did not consider that it was appropriate to postpone judgement, take no further action, or to administer a reprimand and warning as to future conduct. The Committee considered that the respondent’s conduct, involving significant and admitted dishonesty over a period of time, required a significant penalty, in order to protect the welfare of animals and to serve the public interest.

“Accordingly, the Committee has decided to direct that the respondent’s registration be suspended for a period of nine months.”

Dr Bohnen has 28 days from being informed of the Committee’s decision to lodge an appeal with the Privy Council.

Please note: This news story is a summary that is intended to assist in understanding the case and the Committee's decision but does not form part of the decision itself. The full facts and findings of the Disciplinary Committee are the only authoritative documents and are available to download from the DC hearings page.

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