Tait v The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
CourtPrivy Council
JudgeLord Steyn
Judgment Date15 April 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] UKPC 34
Date15 April 2003
Docket NumberAppeal No. 67 of 2002

[2003] UKPC 34

Privy Council

Present at the hearing:-

Lord Steyn

Lord Slynn of Hadley

Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe

Appeal No. 67 of 2002
Alan Roderick Tait
Appellant
and
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
Respondent

[Delivered by Lord Steyn]

1

At the conclusion of the hearing on 20 March 2003 their Lordships announced that they had agreed humbly to advise Her Majesty that the appeal ought to be allowed and that they would give their reasons later. This they now do.

2

This is an appeal under section 17 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 against decisions made by the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on 27/28 June 2002 and 31 July 2002.

3

A Notice of Inquiry dated 14 March 2002 contained four charges against the appellant. The charges were amended on 19 June 2002. For reasons which will become clear later it is only necessary to set out the first two charges. Charge 1 reads as follows:

" That being registered in the Register of veterinary surgeons:-

Between 22 August 2001 and 27 August 2001, whilst practising veterinary surgery at The Veterinary Surgery, 'Robin Royd', 193 Huddersfield Road, Thongsbridge, Holmfirth, Huddersfield HD7 2TT and at 5 Saddleworth House, 113 High Street, Uppermill, Saddleworth, Oldham OL3 6BD, having accepted as an in-patient, Frances, an English bull terrier bitch belonging to Edward Redman and Alison Turner you falsely misrepresented to Edward Redman and/or to Alison Turner the professional veterinary service that you had provided to Frances in particular:-

  • (i) you stated that you had carried out surgery on Frances when you had not done so, and/or

  • (ii) you provided a radiograph of a (male) dog as evidence that you had taken a radiograph of Frances.

AND THAT in relation to the facts alleged, you have been guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect."

Charge 2 read as follows:

"On 19 or 20 December 2000, whilst practising veterinary surgery … having carried out an ovaro-hysterectomy on Suzie, a greyhound bitch belonging to Dr and Mrs Khan, you failed to provide adequate postoperative care in that:-

  • (i) on 20 December 2000 you discharged her from Uppermill Surgery when she was not sufficiently recovered from major surgery and/or

  • (ii) later the same day, you failed to respond adequately to the first and/or second telephone calls by Dr Khan requesting that you attend to Suzie.

AND THAT in relation to the facts alleged, you have been guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect."

The hearing of the inquiry was due to take place on 2 May 2002. The appellant did not attend and the hearing was adjourned to 27 June 2002. Again, the appellant did not attend. He applied in writing for an adjournment on the ground of ill health, viz alleged hypertension. He produced no medical evidence. The Legal Assessor directed the Committee as to the approach to be adopted. The Committee refused the application for an adjournment and proceeded to hear the charges against the appellant in his absence. On 28 June 2002 the Committee received information that the appellant had been taken to hospital. The Legal Assessor advised the Committee that it might wish to treat this as a further request for an adjournment. The Committee decided to proceed with the hearing but to make only findings on the facts of each charge. On 28 June 2002 the Committee found all the charges proved. The issues of whether the proved facts amounted to disgraceful conduct on the part of the appellant and the question of penalty were adjourned to 31 July 2002. At the resumed hearing on 31 July 2002 the appellant was present and was represented by counsel who applied for a reopening of the inquiry. The Committee refused to re-open the factual issues surrounding the charges. The Committee found that charges 1 and 2 each amounted to disgraceful conduct. On the other hand, the Committee found that charges 3 and 4 did not amount to disgraceful conduct. (This is the reason why charges 3 and 4 are not directly relevant to the disposal of the present appeal.) The Committee directed that the appellant's name be removed from the Register.

4

There are three issues in this appeal. First, it is submitted that the Committee was wrong to hear the case in the absence of the appellant on 27/28 June 2002 and mis-directed itself as to the correct approach to be adopted in considering whether to hear the case in the absence of the appellant. Secondly, and alternatively, it is argued that the Committee was wrong to refuse on 31 July 2002 to set aside its findings of fact reached on 28 June 2002 in the absence of the appellant and to re-open the charges against the appellant. Thirdly, it is contended that the Committee's approach to the penalty to be imposed was flawed and that the making of the decision to remove his name from the Register was manifestly excessive in all the circumstances.

The First Ground: Refusal of an Adjournment on 27 and 28 June 2002.

5

Counsel for the appellant drew attention to the observations of Lord Bingham of Cornhill in R v Jones (Anthony) [2002] 2 WLR 524. Lord Bingham said (at 530) that "the discretion to commence a trial in the absence of a defendant should be exercised with the utmost care and caution". Lord Bingham approved a checklist of matters relevant to the exercise of the discretion provided by the Court of Appeal: R v Hayward [2001] QB 862 para 22(5), at p 873. Pertinent to the present case these decisions show that the following factors were significant: (1) the seriousness of the case against the defendant, (2) the risk of the tribunal reaching a wrong conclusion about the reason for the absence of the defendant, and (3) the risk of reaching a wrong conclusion on the merits as a result of the appellant's account not being heard by the Committee.

6

The appellant was plainly at serious risk of the penalty of removal from the Register being imposed, notably because the first charge involved an allegation of dishonesty in the discharge of professional duties.

7

The Committee further knew (1) that the appellant disputed the facts...

To continue reading

Request your trial
36 cases
  • Dr Mukhlis Aziz Abid Simawi v General Medical Council
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
    • 11 August 2020
    ...all professional men and women, a finding of dishonesty lies at the top end of the spectrum of gravity of misconduct; see Tait v Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [2003] UKPC 34 at paragraph 13. 7. Dishonesty will be particularly serious where it occurs in the performance by a doctor of......
  • General Medical Council v Joseph Nyamasve
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
    • 27 March 2018
    ...all professional men and women, a finding of dishonesty lies at the top end of the spectrum of gravity of misconduct; see Tait v Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [2003] UKPC 34 at paragraph 13. 7. Dishonesty will be particularly serious where it occurs in the performance by a doctor of ......
  • General Medical Council v Olufemi Adeyinka Adeogba
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 18 March 2016
    ...to represent them". 16 These principles were considered by the Judicial Committee in ( Tait v Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [2003] UKPC 34, (2003) WL 1822941), which concerned an application for a second adjournment of a disciplinary hearing on the grounds of ill health (hypertension......
  • General Medical Council v Theodoropoulos
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
    • 31 July 2017
    ...EWHC 3180 (Admin) at paragraph 43. Findings of dishonesty lie at the top end of the spectrum of gravity of misconduct: Tait v The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons [2003] UKPC 34 at paragraph 13. 36 Dishonesty will be particularly serious where it occurs in the performance of a doctor's ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT