Vet suspended for assault and medicine misadministration

16 November 2018

The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has suspended a North Yorkshire veterinary surgeon for six months, following his conviction for common assault and failings related to inappropriate attempts at surgery and administration of medicines to another person.

The hearing for Richard Sutcliffe took place from Monday 12 to Wednesday 14 November and concerned three charges against him.

The first charge related to his conviction on two counts of common assault by beating, relating to an incident on 3 December 2016 in which he assaulted two individuals, and as a result of which he was made subject to a community order and a restraining order, as well as being fined and made to pay a victim surcharge and costs.

The second charge related to him undertaking, or attempting to undertake, in or around August or September 2015, non-emergency surgery on the eyelid of one of the individuals referred to in the first charge, and administering, or attempting to administer, a Prescription-Only Veterinary Medicines to the same person.

The third charged related to him supplying, in or around August 2016, that same individual with a Prescription-Only Medication other than in accordance with a valid prescription.

"Having regards to the aggravating and mitigating factors in this case, the Committee has decided that it is sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct to give a direction for suspension of the respondent’s name from the Register of Veterinary Surgeons," Professor Alistair Barr, chairing the Disciplinary Committee. 

At the outset of the hearing Mr Sutcliffe admitted the first and second charges against him and that these constituted serious professional misconduct. He denied the third charge. In relation to that charge the Committee found that, having considered the totality of the evidence, it was unable to be sure that the College had proved the allegation to the requisite standard of proof, namely so that the Committee was sure.  Accordingly Charge 3 was dismissed.

The Committee decided that the convictions in the first charge rendered Mr Sutcliffe unfit to practise veterinary surgery and that his conduct in Charge 2 constituted serious professional misconduct  The Committee then went on to consider sanction.

The Committee considered the aggravating features for both charges. For the first charge it considered the actual injury to one of his victims and risk of injury to the other, noting also that both of his victims were vulnerable people and one was a child, and that the overall incident during which the assaults occurred lasted over a seven hour period.

For the second charge, aggravating factors were that the non-emergency surgery performed by Mr Sutcliffe was wholly inappropriate, that there was a risk of injury to the individual on whom he performed the surgery and that his conduct was reckless.

The mitigating factors considered by the Committee were that Mr Sutcliffe recognised the gravity of the findings against him and demonstrated insight into the allegations, that the incident in charge 1, though prolonged, was an isolated one, that the incident in charge 2 was consensual and did not result in actual harm and that neither charge had any connection with Mr Sutcliffe’s veterinary practice, nor did they affect client care or animal welfare.

Professor Alistair Barr, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “As recognised by the Committee, the respondent has displayed insight as to the seriousness of his behaviour. Having regard to the evidence of all the character witnesses and the written testimonials the Committee accepts that the respondent’s conduct as set out in charges 1 and 2 was wholly out of character and, therefore, there is no significant risk of repeat behaviour. The Committee considers that the respondent would be fit to return to practise, having regard to his excellent track record as a veterinary surgeon to date, after any period of suspension.

“Having regards to the aggravating and mitigating factors in this case, the Committee has decided that it is sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct to give a direction for suspension of the respondent’s name from the Register of Veterinary Surgeons.

“The Committee considers that the period of suspension must be sufficient to mark the seriousness of the charges but must be proportionate and fair in the circumstances of the case. The Committee has therefore concluded that the appropriate period of suspension is six months.”

Mr Sutcliffe has 28 days from being informed of the Committee’s decision to appeal to the Privy Council.

Please note: This news story is a summary of the hearing produced on behalf of the RCVS Disciplinary Committee. It does not form part of the full facts and findings which are the only authoritative documentation. The full facts and findings are available to download from our Disciplinary Committee hearings page.

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