Kent veterinary surgeon struck off for fraud and clinical failings

21 March 2018

The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has directed that the Registrar remove a Kent veterinary surgeon from the Register after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud in court and for a number of clinical failings.

The hearing for David Edward Smith took place from 19 February before coming to a close on Thursday 15 March 2018. He had previously been convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud at Maidstone Crown Court in June 2016 for which he was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment in July 2016 and this formed one of the charges against him.

There were also a number of charges related to his treatment of five different animals while in practice at the Lakeview Veterinary Centre in Folkestone, Kent. In summary these charges are:

  • In relation to a Clydesdale mare named Grace on 14 August 2014 he failed to perform an adequate examination and/or undertake sufficient investigation and/or take a history of her; that after his initial visit to Grace on that day he failed to respond adequately to the owner’s telephone reports that Grace had deteriorated and/or failed to improve; and, that he failed to make adequate clinical records for Grace.
  • Between 29 September 2014 and 31 January 2015, in relation to a Labradoodle named Holly, he failed to keep adequate clinical records.
  • In relation to a cat named Maisey the allegations were that he failed to examine and investigate the cat adequately, he made a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus and gave insulin to administer to the cat without first undertaking the minimum investigation required, failed to keep adequate clinical records and sent an incorrect, misleading and dishonest statement to the RCVS regarding his treatment of Maisey. All charges date between 30 October and 19 December 2014.
  • In relation to a cat called Comet the allegation was that between 1 April and 17 April 2015 he failed to keep adequate clinical records and failed to respond adequately and appropriately to concerns raised by the owner.
  • Regarding a Yorkshire Terrier with diabetes named Poppy the allegation was that in two emergency out-of-hours calls made by Poppy’s owner to Mr Smith in April 2015 regarding the dog’s condition, he failed to recommend veterinary treatment or keep adequate clinical records. Furthermore, when the owner attended the practice following the two calls and the death of Poppy, he attributed the care to another member of the practice and failed to communicate effectively with the owner.

Having heard from a number of witnesses, including Mr Smith and received representations from Mr Smith in relation to the above charges, the Committee found almost all of the charges proven, with the exception of those relating to Mr Smith’s alleged conversation with Poppy’s owner at the practice following her death.

“The Committee was particularly concerned because the dishonesty went to the heart of Mr Smith’s responsibilities as a veterinary surgeon. His registration as a veterinary surgeon enabled him to take part in the conspiracy, and that role involved him conducting certified examinations on animals and supplying drugs for administration to animals. Reliable and honest certification is a vital element of the veterinary surgeon’s public role.” Cerys Jones, Chair of Disciplinary Committee hearing for David Smith

The Committee then went on to consider whether the various proven charges amounted to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect and whether the conviction rendered Mr Smith unfit to practise veterinary surgery. In relation to the clinical charges the Committee found that, both individually and cumulatively, they amounted to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect. The Committee also determined that the conviction rendered Mr Smith unfit to practise veterinary surgery and noted that it involved prolonged dishonesty, breach of trust, disregard for animal health and welfare and a “total abrogation of Mr Smith’s professional responsibilities.”

Cerys Jones, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee was particularly concerned because the dishonesty went to the heart of Mr Smith’s responsibilities as a veterinary surgeon. His registration as a veterinary surgeon enabled him to take part in the conspiracy, and that role involved him conducting certified examinations on animals and supplying drugs for administration to animals. Reliable and honest certification is a vital element of the veterinary surgeon’s public role.”

In considering the sanction against Mr Smith the Committee looked at the clinical charges and the conviction separately.

In relation to the clinical charges the Committee found that his treatment of the animals in these cases was fundamentally incompatible with being a veterinary surgeon. The Committee therefore directed that Mr Smith’s name should be removed from the register of veterinary surgeons.

The Committee said that the case demonstrated that Mr Smith’s lack of treatment or his inappropriate treatment of these animals caused harm and that in some regards, for example the writing of accurate and contemporaneous clinical notes, Mr Smith demonstrated a total disrespect for the Code of Professional Conduct.

The Committee went on to say: “Further, he deliberately lied to his regulator. He demonstrated deep-seated attitudinal issues including a misplaced belief in his own abilities and had no insight or commitment to do anything different in the future. In those circumstances the likelihood of repetition was significant in the Committee’s view.”

"He deliberately lied to his regulator. He demonstrated deep-seated attitudinal issues including a misplaced belief in his own abilities and had no insight or commitment to do anything different in the future. In those circumstances the likelihood of repetition was significant in the Committee’s view.”

In considering the sanction for his conviction of conspiracy to commit fraud the Committee took into account a number of aggravating factors including the premeditated nature of the conduct, the fact it was repeated over four years and the fact that harm was caused to both animals and people as a result of his actions.

Cerys Jones said: “As the decision notes, some of the riders were novices or children and as a result of their experience they lost confidence in riding a horse. As the independent veterinary surgeon Mr Smith was in a position of responsibility because he was certifying the horses as to their suitability. A particularly aggravating feature in this case is that Mr Smith had previously been removed from the Register for falsely certifying horses for export.”

In relation to the conviction the Committee also directed that the Registrar remove Mr Smith from the Register.

Mr Smith has 28 days from being informed of the Committee’s decision to make an appeal against it.

UPDATE: David Smith lodged an appeal against the Disciplinary Committee's decision to remove him from the Register with the Privy Council on 10 April 2018. He remains on the Register of Veterinary Surgeons pending the outcome of the appeal.

Please note: This is a summary of the Disciplinary Committee hearing intended to assist in understanding the case and the Committee's decision, it does not form part of the decision itself. The Committee's full decisions are the only authoritative documents.

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