Vet Reprimanded for ‘Disgraceful Conduct’

The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) on Wednesday [11 April 2012] reprimanded an Exeter-based veterinary surgeon for practising whilst not on the RCVS Register.

At the outset of the two-day hearing, John Sherry, the former owner of 'The Pet Practice' in Exeter, admitted that he had been practising as a veterinary surgeon during the 17 months following his removal from the Register for non-payment of his retention fees. He also accepted the evidence put forward by the College as follows:

In removing Mr Sherry on 1 June 2010, the College followed procedures set out under the Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Practitioners [Registration] Regulations 2005. This included sending a final warning to Mr Sherry prior to his removal from the Register, and publishing his name on the list of veterinary surgeons removed for non-payment of fees.

On 4 July 2011, the College received an email concerning Mr Sherry's registration status and telephoned him. He expressed concern at his removal, explained that he was practising, and requested a restoration form, which the College sent the same day. The College then wrote to advise Mr Sherry that it had reason to believe that he was practising illegally.

On 3 September 2011, the College received a restoration form and payment instructions from Mr Sherry's practice and requested additional documentation as evidence of good standing and identity (as required by the Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Practitioners [Registration] Regulations 2010). On 6 September, it received a letter of apology from Mr Sherry, which also said he had had administrative and financial problems.

On 17 October 2011, the College reported Mr Sherry to the police on suspicion of breaching the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, and made an unannounced visit to his practice. Mr Sherry subsequently furnished the College with the required documents and was restored to the Register on 10 November 2011.

The Committee found the allegation of disgraceful conduct proven. However, in mitigation, it formed the view that the Respondent was an honest person who answered frankly and openly all questions put forward in cross-examination. It took note of Mr Sherry's serious financial and family health problems which, Mr Sherry said, were the context to this period and resulted in his bankruptcy in January 2012. It further noted his apology, the lack of other complaints against him, and the fact that no harm or risk of harm to any person or animal occurred from Mr Sherry's actions.

"After careful consideration, the Committee has concluded that the appropriate sanction in this case is that the Respondent be severely reprimanded and be warned as to his future conduct," said the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee, Professor Peter Lees, speaking on behalf of the Committee.

"The misconduct admitted by the Respondent is serious, and the Committee has taken an exceptional course by not imposing a more severe sanction in this case, because of the mitigating factors. The profession must be in no doubt that failing to pay retention fees and practising whilst unregistered are grave matters, which will normally attract a severe sanction."

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