Ceredigion vet suspended from the Register for six months
16 February 2016
The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has directed that a Ceredigion veterinary surgeon be suspended from the Register for six months after he admitted to misconduct relating to tuberculin testing for cattle he owned and failing to register the births and deaths of cattle.
Robert Alun Merfyn Evans appeared before the Committee on Thursday 11 February 2016 where he admitted the two heads of charge of misconduct against him.
The first head of charge related to the fact that, between 24 June and 29 June 2013, he deliberately failed to bring to attention of Wyn Lewis MRCVS, an Official Veterinarian (OV) and fellow director of Mr Evans’ practice in Cardigan, the cattle on his farm requiring intradermal comparative tuberculin tests; that he tested certain of the cattle himself despite not being the OV for those tests and having a conflict of interest; and that he provided inaccurate and incomplete information to his practice for the completion of a report on the testing to be sent to the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA). This misconduct was then repeated the following year between 19 June and 1 August 2014.
The second head of charge against Mr Evans related to breaches of the Cattle Identification (Wales) Regulations 2007 between 4 July 2005 and 20 June 2014, namely the fact that he failed to register the birth of five calves and the death of nine cows. These were accepted as being specimen charges reflecting a much larger total number of breaches over the whole nine year period.
The Committee agrees that the lengthy period over which these offences took place, his betrayal of his colleague, and the undermining of the reputation of the profession and of the system of disease control, taken together with his dishonesty, make it impossible to impose a lesser sanction than suspension." Professor Alistair Barr
Mr Evans’ misconduct first came to light when a late return was sent to the AHVLA in August 2014 regarding the TB testing of 51 live animals on his farm in June 2014. When the report was scrutinised the AHVLA noticed that 26 animals shown on the return as dead were still registered, while 20 animals that were tested were not registered. When the AHVLA investigated, Mr Evans immediately admitted that he had misled Mr Lewis on two occasions and carried out his own testing despite not being the OV.
The Committee heard that he did this because he did not want it to be found out that he had unregistered cattle on his farm.
Regarding the unregistered cattle, the Committee heard that this stemmed from a mistake made by Mr Evans in 2005 or 2006 whereby he mislaid a batch of around nine bovine passport application forms sent to him to register the birth of calves on his farm, a legal requirement for the purposes of animal health, disease control and safeguarding the food chain.
As a result of poor IT skills and being profoundly deaf, Mr Evans felt unable to seek support online or by telephone, was too embarrassed to tell others and, furthermore, felt that it was impossible to correct his mistake without being in breach of the law. So, for a period of nine or 10 years, he failed to register the birth of calves on his farm. His failure to register the deaths of cattle, was also caused by administrative failings.
His breaches of the cattle registration regulations were subject to criminal proceedings and on 14 October 2015 he plead guilty at Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire Magistrates Court to 14 offences for which he was given a conditional discharge for 18 months and ordered to pay costs of £1,000.
The Committee considered that a suspension from the Register would be in line with the seriousness of the charges against Mr Evans. Professor Alistair Barr, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee agrees that the lengthy period over which these offences took place, his betrayal of his colleague, and the undermining of the reputation of the profession and of the system of disease control, taken together with his dishonesty, make it impossible to impose a lesser sanction than suspension.
“The Committee finds that the respondent, who is a man of good character, has fully accepted his guilt, and has real insight into the seriousness of his conduct. He cooperated fully with the investigations and with the County Council who prosecuted him in the Magistrates [Court], and with the College. He made an open and frank admission about his misconduct from the outset.
“The course of conduct on which he embarked and which has led to these charges was the result of a simple mistake at a time of considerable stress to him. He was not guilty of deliberate misconduct at the outset but… what started as an innocent mistake took on a life of its own and led him to deliberate and dishonest misconduct because he did not know how to get himself out of the predicament he was in.”
Professor Barr also said that there was no financial gain in Mr Evans’ actions and that animal welfare had not been compromised as the cattle were well cared for and in good health and that Mr Evans’ actions in carrying out the tuberculin tests on the unregistered cattle himself demonstrated that he was concerned about identifying any disease in his herd.
He added: “In all the circumstances the Committee has decided a proportionate sanction is that the respondent’s registration should be suspended for a period of six months.”
NOTE: This summary is provided to assist in understanding the RCVS Disciplinary Committee’s decision. It does not form part of the reasons for the decision. The Committee’s full findings and decision is the only authoritative document.