The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has reprimanded a veterinary surgeon who'd fallen victim to a corrupt system and consequently bribed a professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest.

Andreea Maria Bacaintan was convicted by the Bucharest Court of Law in October 2017 of bribing a professor during her final year at university in order to pass an examination, a charge to which she had pleaded guilty. 

Miss Bacaintan was fined and sentenced to a period of one year and four months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, with requirements for supervision and unpaid community service work. The case against Miss Bacaintan was that this conviction renders her unfit to practise veterinary surgery.

However, the Committee also heard and accepted that Miss Bacaintan had been the victim of a dishonest scheme perpetrated by members of staff at the University to extort money from students before they would let them pass the exam.

At the outset of the hearing the respondent admitted the facts as contained in the charge and that her conviction rendered her unfit to practise veterinary surgery. However, notwithstanding Miss Bacaintan’s acceptance that she was unfit, the issue of whether or not she was fit to practice remained one for the Committee’s judgement.

The Committee considered whether or not Miss Bacaintan’s conduct amounted to serious professional misconduct. In coming to its decision, the Committee took into account the submissions it had heard from Nicole Curtis, acting for the College, and from Miss Bacaintan, who represented herself.

Ms Curtis submitted that the nature and circumstances of the offence, which involved an element of dishonesty and which led to the conviction, were such as to render Miss Bacaintan unfit to practise as a veterinary surgeon in the UK. Miss Bacaintan’s conduct was also liable to have a seriously detrimental effect on the reputation of the profession, as it undermined the examination system.

The Committee also considered the mitigating factors associated with the conviction, namely that this was a single, isolated incident and that Miss Bacaintan was clearly the victim of a dishonest scheme perpetrated by staff at the University.

Considering both the aggravating and mitigating factors, the Committee was satisfied that Miss Bacaintan’s conduct fell far below the standard expected of a Registered Veterinary Surgeon.

The Committee then considered what sanction to impose on Miss Bacaintan. In doing so it took into account some of the written testimonials submitted on her behalf. The Committee was satisfied that Miss Bacaintan understood the magnitude of what she had done and was highly unlikely to repeat her dishonest behaviour.

Speaking on behalf of the Committee, Ian Green said: "This was a truly exceptional case where, whilst she had been dishonest, which the Committee in no way condoned, she had felt compelled to act in this way. The Committee was persuaded that Miss Bacaintan had herself been the victim of a corrupt system and had acted out of desperation in the final stages of her degree and with the genuine fear that if she did not “play the game” she would not graduate, thereby throwing away six years of hard work.

"It was notable that she did not succumb to the corrupt scheme until the third time of trying to pass this exam. It was clear from the evidence that she was not alone in paying up to try and pass this exam and that at least 30 and possibly many more students had done the same thing."

In such circumstances and with the significant mitigation, the Committee decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was to reprimand Miss Bacaintan and to warn her about her future conduct.

Based on the reported facts, what I'd like to know is why the DC even reprimanded a veterinary surgeon who was clearly being extorted herself, and what action was taken against the University staff?

The Committee’s full facts and findings can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/disciplinary


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