Three veterinary surgeons have each been suspended from the Register for a period of one month by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Disciplinary Committee after admitting dishonesty in relation to the submission of mobility score assessment readings required as part of a dairy animal health and welfare scheme.
The Disciplinary Committee hearing for Alexander McKinstry, Andrew Rutherford and Rebecca Inman, who were all employed by the same practice group in North-West England, took place from Tuesday 14 to Monday 20 June with each of them having two sets of charges against them.
The charges against Mr McKinstry relate to the fact that in October 2019 he wrote a letter, or arranged for a letter to be written, indicating that Dr Inman, a registered mobility scorer for the health and welfare scheme, had undertaken an assessment when he, in fact, had done so and that, in doing so, he was dishonest, misleading and risked undermining procedures designed to promote animal welfare. He did this without Dr Inman’s knowledge and he himself was not a registered mobility scorer.
The charges against Dr Rutherford relate to the fact that in September 2019 on two occasions he similarly wrote a letter saying that Dr Inman had undertaken an assessment when he had done so and had uploaded these letters on to the scheme’s online platform and that, in doing so, he was dishonest, misleading and risked undermining the scheme.
The charges against Dr Inman were that on two occasions in September 2019 she allowed Dr Rutherford to create and upload these letters knowing that they were dishonest, misleading and risked undermining the scheme.
At the outset of the hearing, all three of the veterinary surgeons admitted the charges against them and the Committee found serious professional misconduct in the case of all admitted charges.
The Committee then considered the sanctions for all three of the respondents, taking into account all mitigating and aggravating factors.
Starting with Mr McKinstry, in terms of aggravating factors it considered that the conduct was premeditated, that he had an increased position of trust and responsibility as a practice director at the time of the misconduct, it was a breach of trust for the farm clients, and he had put Dr Inman’s professional reputation in jeopardy by not informing her of his conduct. In mitigation, the Committee considered that there was no harm or risk of harm to animals, the conduct was not done for personal financial gain, that Mr McKinstry had been open and frank in his dealings with the RCVS and had shown insight into his behaviours, and his previous good character and unblemished career.
Regarding Dr Rutherford, the aggravating factors were premeditated misconduct, being in a position of trust and responsibility as a practice director, and breach of trust with farm clients. In mitigation the Committee considered no risk of harm, lack of financial gain, open and frank dealings with the RCVS, insight into behaviours and that Dr Rutherford was previously of good character with an unblemished career.
Regarding Dr Inman, the aggravating factors were the abuse of her position of trust as a registered mobility scorer and the breach of trust with the farm clients. In mitigation the Committee considered that it had been an isolated incident involving, from Dr Inman’s point of view, a single telephone call. It also considered that there was no risk of harm, no personal financial gain, her open and frank admissions in dealings with the RCVS, demonstration of insight, previously unblemished record, and efforts to avoid repeats and remediate past misconduct.
Speaking of the sanctions for all three of the respondents Paul Morris, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee carefully weighed the demands of the public interest, as well as the previously stated mitigating and aggravating factors and all the particular circumstances before it. The Committee concluded that a period of Suspension was sufficient and proportionate in this case to meet the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and uphold proper standards. It had a sufficient deterrent effect upon others in the profession and was sufficient to mark that the disgraceful conduct was unacceptable.
“The Committee considered all of the factors before it, and decided that given the personal mitigation in this case, as set out above, a period of one month was appropriate and proportionate in all the circumstances. It would demonstrate how seriously the Committee considered such behaviour to be, whilst taking into account all the mitigation. It would also ensure the public interest was met.”
The full findings of the Disciplinary Committee regarding this case can be found on the website.