York-based Dr Michael Richard Jones has been suspended by the RCVS Disciplinary Committee for two months, for making dishonest entries in horse passports and subsequently making dishonest entries in the same horses’ clinical records.

The Disciplinary Committee heard three charges against Dr Jones.

The first and second charges were that, in March 2018, Dr Jones made signed entries in the passports and made corresponding entries in clinical records of four horses indicating that he had administered an influenza vaccination booster to each horse on 15 March 2018 and in relation to another horse a tetanus booster, when in fact he had administered the vaccination boosters on 21 March 2018, and that his conduct was misleading, dishonest and undermined the integrity of a vaccination process designed to promote animal welfare.

The third charge was that, on or around 21 March 2018, Dr Jones failed to make any entries in the clinical records for a horse in relation to an examination on 21 March 2018.

At the outset of the hearing Dr Jones admitted the facts in the first and second charges, and accepted that his actions were misleading, dishonest and that they undermined the integrity of a vaccination process. However, he disputed certain aspects of the written statements of the College’s witnesses. In particular he wanted his conduct to be taken in the context of the pressures that he was working under on that day, primarily that he was in a stressed state having had to euthanase a valuable stallion at the conclusion of his previous client appointment.

Dr Jones did not admit the third charge, explaining that he did not remember examining the horse on 21 March 2018 as alleged.

Based on Dr Jones' own admissions, the Committee found the first and second charges proven. 

Regarding the third charge, the Committee heard evidence from the horse’s owner who said they were present during the examination taking place and the Committee was satisfied that the respondent did examine the horse on 21 March 2018 and that he had a duty to make a brief clinical note on the examination. As Dr Jones admitted that he made no such note, the Committee found the charge to have been proven to the requisite standard.

Having found the charges proven, the Committee then went on to consider whether or not Dr Jones’ proven conduct amounted to serious professional misconduct. The Committee, having considered the aggravating and mitigating factors, found that Dr Jones’ conduct as found proved in relation to both charges one and two, did constitute serious professional misconduct.

However, with regards to charge three, the Committee accepted that the respondent simply forgot that he had examined the horse and, therefore, the Committee was not satisfied that the failure to compile a record entry covering the horse’s examination constituted serious professional misconduct.

The Committee then considered what sanction to impose on Dr Jones in relation to the facts found proven in charges one and two. In doing so it took into account the 78 written testimonials and 4 character witnesses called on behalf of Dr Jones.

Ian Green, who chaired the Committee and spoke on its behalf, said: "The Committee’s decision on sanction has been based on an acceptance that the respondent’s conduct on this occasion was out-of-character, as the evidence of his character witnesses and the contents of the letters submitted in his support by his clients and other veterinary colleagues assert. The Committee also accepts that the respondent self-reported himself to his employer and to the College and has made a full and frank admission of his wrongdoing.

"Consideration was given to whether the sanction of a reprimand and/or warning as to future conduct would adequately reflect the gravity of the misconduct, however, after careful reflection it was concluded that such a sanction could not be justified. The reason is that acts of falsification involve acts of dishonesty by a professional person acting in a professional capacity, and the gravity of the matter arises not simply from the dishonesty but also from the possible consequences of the false certification. It should be clearly understood by members of the veterinary profession that, in appropriate false certification cases, the sanction of removal from the Register is one which may well be imposed."

The Committee therefore decided that suspending Dr Jones from the Register for two months would be the most appropriate sanction.

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