Privy Council dismisses appeal against 2018 Disciplinary Committee decision
18 February 2020
The Privy Council has dismissed an appeal lodged against the RCVS Disciplinary Committee’s decision in May 2018 that Dr Horia Elefterescu should be removed from the Register.
Following a seven day hearing, the Committee had found Dr Elefterescu guilty of serious professional misconduct in relation to a number of charges which covered issues such as dishonesty, poor record-keeping, and failure to carry out adequate clinical examinations. The full charges and findings of the RCVS Disciplinary Committee can be found on our disciplinary webpage.
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (“the Board”) held the appeal hearing on 17 October 2019 with three Justices of the Supreme Court - Lord Kerr, Lord Carnwath and Lord Kitchin – comprising the Board.
The basis of the appeal to the Privy Council was that the Committee’s findings on the facts of the case were flawed, with his counsel saying that Dr Elefterescu ‘strenuously disputes the findings by the Committee of his dishonesty and lack of professional competence and submits that there is no adequate basis for them in the evidence’.
Furthermore, his counsel told the Board that the Disciplinary Committee’s sanction failed to take into account mitigating factors and that the decision to remove Dr Elefterescu from the Register was disproportionate.
In relation to the appeal against the Disciplinary Committee’s findings on the facts, the Board, which published its judgment on the appeal hearing on 10 February 2020, was not persuaded by any of the arguments put forward on behalf of Dr Elefterescu. These arguments included that the RCVS had failed to call relevant witnesses and had failed to make Dr Elefterescu aware of the significance of some evidential matters, disclosed to him.
In respect of the sanction, the Board was also unpersuaded by the arguments put forward by Dr Elefterescu’s counsel, namely that it was too harsh in its assessment of aggravating factors, did not give adequate weight to mitigating factors, and that it failed to distinguish lack of competence from misconduct.
In its judgment on the arguments put forward by Dr Elefterescu’s counsel, the Board said: “It is the opinion of the Board that these criticisms are not well founded. The Committee considered with care Dr Elefterescu’s proven and admitted conduct in relation to each of the charges and whether it fell below or far below the standard to be expected. It is to be noted in this regard that a number of the charges which were either admitted or upheld were not the subject of any challenge on this appeal.
“Overall, the Committee found that Dr Elefterescu’s clinical failures were very serious, involved failures in the basics of animal care, resulted in animal suffering and involved widespread breaches of the respondent’s [RCVS] code of professional conduct. It also expressed particular concern about its findings of dishonesty, and rightly so. That conduct was, in its view, ‘at the top end’ of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect. What is more, Dr Elefterescu had a lack of insight into his failings and a wholly unjustified confidence in his abilities which constituted an ongoing risk to animal welfare.
“These were findings which the Committee was clearly entitled to make and, in the light of them, the Board is firmly of the view that the decision of the Committee to direct the removal of Dr Elefterescu’s name from the Register cannot be impeached. The Board rejects the criticisms made of the Committee’s reasoning and the conclusions to which it came. The direction that Dr Elefterescu’s name must be removed from the Register was appropriate and proportionate.”
The Judicial Committee’s full findings are available to download.