The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Disciplinary Committee has suspended an Aberdeenshire-basedJames Gracey from the Register for six months after he was found guilty of conduct that risked undermining procedures designed to promote public health and animal welfare.
First, legal applications were made on behalf of James Gracey asking the committee to rule that the whole proceeding should be stopped as an abuse of process on various grounds.
These included the delay that had occurred in the matter being referred to the RCVS and that there had been flaws in the original investigatory process.
There was a separate application that the evidence of one of the College’s witnesses should be excluded on the grounds that the witness had been convicted of bribery.
The Committee, having considered the submissions made by Counsel representing James Gracey and the College, decided that there was no abuse in allowing the proceedings to continue and ruled that the statement and evidence of one witness should be excluded from the hearing based upon their conviction.
James Gracey was found guilty in respect of five charges in relation to cows owned by his father.
- On or about 15 December 2016, he signed a Food Chain Information form in relation to a cow without declaring that there was a conflict of interest because the cow belonged to his father and without including his and his practice’s contact details with his signature
- On or about 30 March 2017, he signed a Food Chain Information form in relation to a cow, also without declaring a conflict of interest or leaving sufficient contact details
- On or about 6 April 2017, he signed an Emergency Slaughter form for a cow without declaring a conflict of interest as above, and that he stated that he hadn’t not administered any treatment to the cow within the previous seven days of signing the form when he himself had
- On or about 2 July 2019, he signed a Food Chain Information form stating that a cow was fit for travel when it was not
- That his conduct in relation to the proven charges risked undermining public health and animal welfare, and in relation to the Emergency Slaughter Form his conduct was dishonest and misleading
Having found James Gracey guilty of the above charges the Committee went on to consider if the proven charges amounted to serious professional misconduct. (Three other charges were found not proven and one allegation was withdrawn by the RCVS.)
In doing so, the committee made reference to the Code of Professional Conduct and its supporting guidance, particularly in relation to the 10 Principles of Certification.
These principles set out the expectations and obligations, including honesty and candour, when veterinary surgeons are signing documentation in an official capacity.
Dr Hazel Bentall, MRCVS, chaired the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee considered individually and cumulatively all matters it had found proved.
“It concluded that the public relies on veterinary surgeons to be honest and transparent when completing and signing forms.
“There is a public interest in being able to trust the profession to uphold high standards of probity because veterinary surgeons are trusted to play an important role in the promotion of animal health and welfare and associated human health.
“The Committee therefore concluded that cumulatively Charges one, two, three and four amounted to serious professional misconduct because the respondent had failed to meet the necessary high standards of honesty and transparency.
“In particular, the fact that there were four separate events relating to animal welfare and public health was significant when considering what sanction to impose.”
“The Committee is satisfied that such conduct, when taken together, would be considered deplorable by other members of the profession.
“The respondent’s conduct on four occasions in respect of four animals and three conflicts of interest called into question his competence in relation to completing such forms.”
In considering the appropriate sanction for James Gracey, the Committee took into account both mitigating and aggravating circumstances, as well as a number of character witnesses for the respondent, who highlighted his positive personal and professional qualities.
In mitigation, the Committee considered that James Gracey has hitherto been of good character with no previous disciplinary findings, that he had admitted some parts of the charges against him at the outset of the hearing, that he had made efforts to avoid repeating the misconduct and remediate it .
This included making alternative certification arrangements for his father’s farm and taking more appropriate care with record keeping.
The Committee also acknowledged the significant lapse of time between the date of the misconduct and the hearing and the stress that had caused to James Gracey, as well as the insight he had shown into his misconduct.
Taking into account all the factors, the Committee decided that imposing a period of six months suspension from the Register of Veterinary Surgeons was the appropriate sanction for James Gracey.
The full details of the hearing and the Committee’s decision can be found at the RCVS website.