The RCVS Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee has directed that a veterinary nurse be removed from the Register after they were convicted of communicating with someone they believed to be aged under 16 for the purposes of sexual gratification.
The individual, who appeared before the Committee on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 March 2021, cannot be identified because, in view of the highly exceptional circumstances of this case, the Committee granted an application for anonymity. In doing so, the Committee accepted the evidence of a real and immediate threat to the individual’s security if their details were made public. Accordingly, the Committee decided that reference to the respondent’s name in the charge and in the course of the hearing should be anonymised to ‘X’ to protect their safety and security.
In considering the facts of the case, the Committee heard that the individual pleaded guilty in court in 2020 to intentionally and knowingly attempting to communicate with a person under 16 years for the purposes of sexual gratification. Following this they were sentenced to a two-year probation order, were ordered to register on the Sexual Offences Register for five years; and were made subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for five years.
At the outset of the hearing the individual admitted to all the charges against them and the Committee also noted that there was a certified copy of the conviction available.
The Committee then considered whether the conviction amounted to serious professional misconduct. In considering this, it set out the aggravating factors surrounding the case, these being that there was the risk of actual harm to a minor, that the misconduct was premeditated as the respondent had sent a number of messages via a number of online platforms over several days, that the individual displayed predatory behaviour including sending pictures and making comments of a sexual nature, and that it involved what the respondent believed to be a vulnerable individual, namely a 15-year-old child.
“The Committee decided that a suspension order was not the appropriate sanction for such a serious offence because it did not reflect the gravity of X’s conduct. In the Committee’s judgement, the wider public interest, that is the maintenance of the reputation of the profession and the College as a regulator, required a sanction of removal from the Register.”
In mitigation, the Committee considered that there had been no actual harm caused to a human or animal in light of the fact that the 15-year-old child, who the respondent believed they were communicating with, was not real. It also took into account that the conduct related to a single isolated incident and that the individual had made open and frank admissions at an early stage.
Cerys Jones, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee was satisfied that the sentence imposed on X, which included X being subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order until 2025, resulted in the profession of veterinary nurses being brought into disrepute and, in the Committee’s judgement, public confidence in the profession would be undermined if the Committee did not find that the conviction rendered X unfit to practise as a veterinary nurse.”
In considering the individual’s sanction, the Committee heard from a character witness who said that the respondent’s actions were out of character, that they had a previously long and unblemished career, that they had made full admissions and demonstrated insight, and that they had a low risk of reoffending in the future.
Cerys Jones said: “The Committee accepted that X had been an excellent veterinary nurse and that X’s criminal conduct did not relate to X’s practice as a veterinary nurse. However, in the Committee’s judgement, the aggravating factors outweighed the considerable mitigating factors in this case.”
She added: “The Committee decided that a suspension order was not the appropriate sanction for such a serious offence because it did not reflect the gravity of X’s conduct. In the Committee’s judgement, the wider public interest, that is the maintenance of the reputation of the profession and the College as a regulator, required a sanction of removal from the Register. The Committee considered that X had much mitigation and was clearly a dedicated veterinary nurse but the reputation of the profession was more important than the interests of X.
“Further, the Committee noted that in circumstances where X’s probation order expired in 2022, and where the ancillary orders, a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and a requirement to register on the Sexual Offences Register did not expire until 2025; the only proportionate sanction was to direct the Registrar to remove X’s name from the Register of Veterinary Nurses.”
The full findings for the case can be found on the disciplinary hearing section on our website.
Please note: this news story is intended to be a summary of the hearing to assist in understanding the case and the Committee’s decision but does not form part of the decision itself.