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Vet suspended over 5 charges in relation to his father’s cows

A vet has been handed a six-month suspension from the register after being found guilty of “conduct that risked undermining procedures designed to promote public health and animal welfare and which conduct was also in part dishonest”.

That is according to a spokesperson for the RCVS – Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – which released a statement following a hearing of its disciplinary committee.

At the beginning of the hearing, legal applications were made on behalf of Mr. James Dean Gracey to the disciplinary committee, asking them to rule that the whole proceedings should be stopped as an “abuse of process on various grounds”.

This, the statement reads, includes the delay that had occurred in the matters 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 Mr. Gracey and the college, decided that there was no abuse in allowing the proceedings to continue.

It ruled that the statement and evidence of one witness should be excluded from the hearing based upon their conviction.

Five charges

The Aberdeenshire-based vet, James Dean Gracey, was found guilty in respect of five charges in relation to cows his father owned.

These were, the hearing heard, as follows:

  • On or about December 15th, 2016, he signed a Food Chain Information form in relation to a cow without declaring that there was a conflict of interest. The cow belonged to his father, and he did not include his and his practice’s contact details with his signature;
  • On or about March 30th, 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 April 6th, 2017, he signed an emergency slaughter form for a cow without declaring a conflict of interest as above. He stated that he had not administered any treatment to the cow within the previous seven days of signing the form when he himself had;
  • On or about July 2nd, 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.
Decision

Having found Mr. Gracey guilty of the above charges – three other charges were found not proven, and the RCVS withdrew one allegation.

The committee considered if the proven charges amounted to serious professional misconduct.

In doing so, it referred to the code of professional conduct and its supporting guidance, particularly in relation to the ten principles of certification.

These principles set out the expectations and obligations, including around honesty and candour, when vets are signing documentation in an official capacity.

Dr Hazel Bentall MRCVS, chairing the committee, said they concluded that cumulatively charges 1, 2, 3 and 4 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.

In considering the appropriate sanction for Mr Gracey, the committee took into account both mitigating and aggravating circumstances.

It also considered a number of character witnesses for the respondent, who highlighted his positive personal and professional qualities.

In mitigation, the committee considered that Mr. Gracey has:

  • Hitherto been of good character with no previous disciplinary findings;
  • Admitted some parts of the charges against him at the outset of the hearing;
  • Made efforts to avoid repeating the misconduct and remediate it – this included making alternative cert arrangements for his father’s farm and taking more appropriate care with record keeping;
  • “Significant” lapse of time between the date of the misconduct and the hearing;
  • Stress that had caused to Mr. Gracey;
  • The insight he had shown into his misconduct.
Conclusion

The committee decided that a period of six months was “proportionate and the minimum length” necessary to meet the public interest balancing the seriousness of the misconduct and the mitigation.

It decided that a shorter period of suspension would be insufficient to uphold proper standards within the profession or to have a deterrent impact.

“The committee considered that the respondent was a “valued” veterinary surgeon with “extensive” farm animal experience.

It concluded that a “more severe sanction”, such as removal from the RCVS register, would not “properly” reflect the committee’s findings on the scale of dishonesty and would not take account of the respondent’s mitigation.

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