The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has decided to suspend an overseas-based vet for a period of 12 months.
The Disciplinary Committee hearing for James Hugh Alexander Crawford MRCVS took place on August 29 and 30, 2018 and concerned a fabricated email, which he claimed was from a veterinary officer at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA).
The organisation involved has since changed name to become known as the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
Dr. Crawford sent the email to his client, 'Mrs. X', on July 15, 2014, the day on which Mrs. X’s horse was due for insemination using horse semen supplied from a horse in Germany.
However, the semen had arrived without the Intra Trade Certificate, a requirement for intra-EU inseminations, and so Dr. Crawford proceeded to contact the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for alternative authorisation.
Just after 4:30pm on that day, Mrs. X received a text from Dr. Crawford advising her that he had received authorisation from the AHVLA, and would forward to Mrs. X the AHVLA authorisation email.
It later transpired that the email had in fact been fabricated by Dr. Crawford using an email that he had previously received from the AHVLA regarding another matter.
Dr. Crawford faced the following charges:
- Fabricating an e-mail purporting to be from the veterinary officer at the AVHLA, authorising use of semen from a horse for insemination, when in fact he had not received such authorisation;
- Dishonesty in relation to the e-mail described above;
- His conduct gave rise to the spread of infectious disease which had the potential to affect equine animal health and welfare in the region.
Dr. Crawford admitted the first two charges, but denied that his actions had given rise to the risk of disease.
The committee found the first two charges proved and moved on to determine the facts of the third charge.
They took into account that the vet had received verbal confirmation that the semen was safe and that the health papers had been stamped accordingly.
He had not, however, seen a copy of this certificate and so there was no guarantee that the semen was safe to use at the time he sent the fabricated email.
On consideration of the facts, the committee found this charge proved, as Mrs. X’s mare could have been infected and subsequently could have adversely affected equine animal health and welfare in the region.
They also found that his entire course of action had fallen far short of what is expected of a veterinary surgeon and that it amounted to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.
When determining sanction, the committee took into account a number of aggravating factors, namely the risk of injury to animals, an element of pre-meditation, a disregard for the role of the AHVLA, impersonating a fellow veterinary surgeon, and intending to deceive a veterinary surgeon as well as a member of the public.
It did also, however, take into account the mitigating factors – that there was no injury to the animal, and that it was a single isolated incident from which the vet did not stand to make any financial gain.
The committee, therefore, decided to order the Registrar to suspend Dr. Crawford’s registration for 12 months.
Ian Green, chairing the committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The committee did consider whether to remove Dr. Crawford from the register.
However, in light of the significant mitigation in this case, the committee decided that to remove him from the register would be disproportionate.
Dr. Crawford can lodge an appeal with the Privy Council within 28 days of being notified of the Disciplinary Committee's decision.