The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) on Friday [24 February 2012] dismissed a case against an Essex-based veterinary surgeon, having found him not guilty of charges relating to the measurement of horses and ponies.
At the ten-day hearing, Marc Auerbach, of Oak Equine Veterinary Surgery, Ongar, answered charges relating to measuring the height of 29 horses/ponies presented for measurement by two agents in early 2009. Dr Auerbach had undertaken these measurements as an Official Measurer (OM) for the Joint Measuring Board (JMB), which provides a system for independently measuring and certifying the size of competition horses/ponies. An animal's financial value relates to its size, with larger animals being more likely to win in their competitive class.
The case centred on the expected accuracy of such measurements, whether Dr Auerbach was dishonest in colluding with the agents, or whether there had been signs of malpractice which a reasonably competent vet acting as an OM ought to detect.
From evidence submitted, the Committee determined a margin for measurement accuracy, and consequently dismissed from its consideration ten animals where the difference between the initial measurement and the re-measurement was 3 cm or less. However, the College submitted that the average difference was so great that, either, Dr Auerbach had failed to take sufficient steps to ensure that the correct measurements were recorded, or else he had been dishonest. Dr Auerbach's Counsel accepted the inference that presenting agents were dishonest, but denied that Dr Auerbach was dishonest or had failed to pick up signs of malpractice on the part of the agents.
The Committee was of the view that there may be unscrupulous presenters capable of materially interfering with the height of horses. While it was unable to determine with certainty the extent to which it could be done, the Committee formed the view that unscrupulous interference (together with intrinsic variables) could have caused the differences between measurement and re-measurement in the 19 horses.
The Committee noted there was no evidence of improper payments being received by anyone. It also accepted evidence that Dr Auerbach was not a dishonest man, taking into account his record of 23 years of honesty and excellence in the profession, unchallenged character references and the lack of any credible motive for him to act dishonestly.
Next, the Committee considered whether there had been signs of preparation malpractice which ought to have been picked up by any reasonably competent veterinary surgeon acting as an OM. The College submitted that Dr Auerbach had failed to take several steps including the amount of time and attention given to the animals he measured, and whether they might be drugged or sedated.
The Committee concluded from the evidence, including scientific papers, that mildly sedated animals may not be distinguishable from properly prepared animals; well-behaved horses were not an indication that something was amiss. The Committee accepted that Dr Auerbach took around 15-20 minutes to measure each of the horses presented on 9 January; and, in the absence of guidance from the JMB, it could not conclude this was rushed or unreasonable. Consequently, the Committee was unable to be satisfied, so that it was sure, that the allegation of failure to take sufficient steps to ensure the recording of correct measurements was proved.
"Accordingly, the decision of the Committee is that the facts set out in the Charge in relation to all the horses and ponies listed have not been proved to the necessary standard of proof," said Prof Peter Lees, speaking on behalf of the Committee as he directed the charges be dismissed.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1) The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK and deals with issues of professional misconduct, maintaining the Registers of veterinary surgeons and of veterinary nurses and assuring standards of veterinary education. It also has a 'Royal College' role, which means that it is responsible for postgraduate veterinary and veterinary nursing qualifications.
2) RCVS disciplinary powers are exercised through the Preliminary Investigation and Disciplinary Committees, established in accordance with Schedule 2 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (the 1966 Act). The RCVS has authority to deal with three types of case:
a) Fraudulent registration
b) Criminal convictions
c) Allegations of disgraceful professional conduct
3) The Disciplinary Committee is a constituted judicial tribunal under the 1966 Act and follows rules of evidence similar to those used in a court of law.
4) The burden of proving an allegation falls upon the RCVS, and the RCVS must prove to the standard that the Committee is sure.
5) A respondent veterinary surgeon may appeal a Disciplinary Committee decision to the Privy Council within 28 days of the date of the decision. If no appeal is received, the Committee's judgment takes effect after this period.
6) Further information about the hearing and the charges against Dr Auerbach, as well as the Committee's decision, can be found at http://www.rcvs.org.uk/disciplinary
For more information please contact:
Claire Millington, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons +44(0)20-7202-0783 / email@example.com
SOURCE Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons