Vet suspended for assault and medicine mis-administration

A North Yorkshire veterinary surgeon has been suspended for six months, following a assault conviction, inappropriate attempts at surgery and administration of medicines to another person.

The hearing by the disciplinary committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) for Richard Sutcliffe took place from Monday 12 to Wednesday 14 November and concerned three charges against him.

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The first charge related to his conviction on two counts of common assault by beating, relating to an incident on 3 December 2016 in which he assaulted two individuals. As a result he was subject to a community order, a restraining order, was fined and made to pay a victim surcharge and costs.

The second charge related to him undertaking, or attempting to undertake, non-emergency surgery on the eyelid of one of the individuals referred to in the first charge, and administering, or attempting to administer, a Prescription-Only Veterinary Medicines to the same person.

The third charged related to him supplying that same individual with a Prescription-Only Medication which was not in accordance with a valid prescription.

Sutcliffe admitted the first and second charges against him but denied the third.The committee found it was unable to be sure that the college had proved the allegation so the third charge was dismissed.

It was decided that the convictions in the first charge rendered Sutcliffe unfit to practise veterinary surgery and his second charge “constituted serious professional misconduct”.

The committee considered the aggravating features for both charges; for the first it considered the actual injury to one of his victims and risk of injury to the other, noting that both of his victims were vulnerable people and one was a child, and the overall incident occurred lasted over a seven hour period.

For the second charge, the aggravating factors were that the non-emergency surgery performed by Sutcliffe was “wholly inappropriate” as there was a risk of injury to the individual and his conduct was “reckless”.

The committee found that Sutcliffe recognised the gravity of the findings against him and the first charge, though prolonged, was an isolated incident while the second was consensual and did not result in actual harm, nor did they affect client care or animal welfare.

Professor Alistair Barr, chairing the committee, said: “As recognised by the committee, the respondent has displayed insight as to the seriousness of his behaviour. Having regard to the evidence of all the character witnesses and the written testimonials the committee accepts that the respondent’s conduct as set out in charges 1 and 2 was wholly out of character and, therefore, there is no significant risk of repeat behaviour. The committee considers that the respondent would be fit to return to practise, having regard to his excellent track record as a veterinary surgeon to date, after any period of suspension.

“The committee considers that the period of suspension must be sufficient to mark the seriousness of the charges but must be proportionate and fair in the circumstances of the case. The committee has therefore concluded that the appropriate period of suspension is six months.”

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