The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has suspended three vets from the register for one month.
They admitted dishonesty in relation to submitting 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, all employed by the same practice group in North-West England, took place from Tuesday, June 14th to Monday, 20th.
According to the RCVS, each had 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 onto 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 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 vets 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, considering all mitigating and aggravating factors.
Paul Morris, DC Chair, said:
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, the hearing concluded. 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.
Also, it 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.
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