The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has directed that a veterinary surgeon be suspended from the Register for 18 months after pleading guilty in the USA to providing false statements about imported flea and tick medicines and subsequently not declaring the conviction when applying to register with the RCVS and in subsequent annual renewals.
The hearing relating to Dr Craig Mostert took place between 21 and 23 March 2022, where he admitted to his conviction but denied that it rendered him unfit to practise as a veterinary surgeon. He also admitted to not disclosing his conviction to the RCVS but denied that it amounted to dishonesty or was misleading and that failing to do so amounted to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.
In considering whether the conviction rendered Dr Mostert unfit to practise, the Committee needed to consider whether Dr Mostert’s conviction affected the public interest, which included the need to maintain public confidence in the profession by upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour for members of the profession. The Committee noted that the conviction involved dishonesty in that the offence related to the making of false statements in relation to the value of the goods which were being despatched to the USA. The Committee considered that a conviction for a serious offence involving dishonesty would have a negative impact on public confidence in the profession, and that its reputation would be damaged if proper standards of conduct and behaviour were not upheld. The Committee also noted that as the products that Dr Mostert imported into the USA were not labelled as coming from a foreign market and were not labelled as needing to be administered by a vet, his conviction also related to animal safety, as anyone who accessed the medications could believe that it was safe for them to be given to an animal.
The Committee then considered Dr Mostert’s failure to declare the conviction to the College on three separate occasions. The Committee noted Dr Mostert’s evidence that, at the time, he did not believe that he had to disclose his conviction as it occurred in a country where he had not practised as a veterinary surgeon. Further, he had not taken the time to read and interpret the application form accurately. The Committee considered that the wording around convictions on the application and annual renewal forms were very clear and that, as a veterinary surgeon, Dr Mostert would be familiar with such documents. The Committee considered that it was inconceivable that an experienced veterinary surgeon, making a declaration of this kind to his regulator, would not have understood that a serious conviction in the USA, dating from June 2017, was a conviction that he was obliged to disclose. The Committee therefore found Dr Mostert’s failures to declare his conviction dishonest.
Judith Way, Chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, noted that in deciding upon the appropriate sanction, the case did not involve any actual harm to an animal or human and that Dr Mostert had had a long and otherwise unblemished career. However, a key aggravating factor was that the action that led to the conviction resulted in financial gain through the creation of a business enterprise and that Dr Mostert falsely declared the value of goods. The extent of any financial gain was not known to the Committee, but the business operated on the basis that false declarations were repeatedly made.
“After careful consideration the Committee has concluded that in all the circumstances, a lengthy period of suspension would properly reflect the gravity of the case and satisfy the public interest. The Committee has decided that the appropriate length of suspension is one of 18 months.”
The Committee’s full findings can be viewed at www.rcvs.org.uk/disciplinary