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Disciplinary Committee suspends vet following harassment conviction

4 January 2018

The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has requested that the Registrar suspend a Nottinghamshire-based veterinary surgeon from the Register for five months after he was convicted following his guilty plea to harassment at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court.

Victor Daniel Pousada Garcia appeared before the Committee on 18 and 19 December following his conviction for harassment at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court in September 2017 for which offence the magistrates sentenced him to six weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. The magistrates also imposed a restraining order and ordered Mr Garcia to pay compensation and costs as well as a surcharge to fund victim services.

The harassment conviction related to incidents between 30 September 2016 and 27 December 2016 in which Mr Garcia engaged in conduct that amounted to harassment towards a woman including sending offensive text messages, visiting her place of work, attempting to contact her through social media, going to her home address and driving past her home address.

At the outset of the hearing Mr Garcia admitted the College’s charge against him and that his conviction rendered him unfit to practise veterinary surgery. Following cross-examination of Mr Garcia on the facts of the case and having considered representation from his counsel, the Disciplinary Committee found that Mr Garcia’s conduct leading to conviction and the conviction itself rendered him unfit to practise as a veterinary surgeon.

Mehmuda Mian, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “It was a serious conviction as demonstrated by the sentence imposed and by the nature of the harassment. It brought distress on [the victim] and will have damaged the reputation of the veterinary profession. The respondent was right to accept that this was the case.”

Turning to the sanction for Mr Garcia the Committee considered a number of aggravating factors in his case including the distress caused to the victim as some of the text messages could be interpreted as threats to harm; the fact that Mr Garcia had continued to contact the victim after receiving a warning from the police; the fact he visited her place of work; that there was a sexual element to some of the messages he sent to the victim; and that the pattern of behaviour was sustained over three months and only ended with his arrest. It also considered that his behaviour was contrary to the Code of Professional Conduct and its supporting guidance’s advice on professional and appropriate use of social media.

The Committee also considered mitigating factors such as the fact that, during the period of his conduct, there was a family illness and bereavement; that he admitted the charges before the magistrates and the Committee; that ‘social ineptitude’ was a factor and that he did not recognise the rejection he received from the victim; testimonials as to his capabilities as a veterinary surgeon; and insight into his behaviour as well as taking steps to avoid its repetition.

Ms Mian concluded: “The Committee has determined to suspend the respondent’s registration for a period of five months. This sanction reflects the seriousness of the conviction and the concerns expressed by the Committee in this determination. It will send a message to the respondent and to the profession that conduct such as this is unacceptable. It will afford an opportunity to the respondent to reflect further on his behaviour.”

Mr Garcia will have 28 days from the end of the hearing to appeal against the Committee’s decision.

NOTE: This summary is provided to assist in understanding the RCVS Disciplinary Committee’s decision. It does not form part of the reasons for the decision. The Committee’s full findings and decision is the only authoritative document.

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