June 2018

Portsmouth vet struck off for possessing indecent images of children

Portsmouth-based Simon Wood has been struck off by the RCVS Disciplinary Committee after being convicted of possessing indecent images of children.

Mr Wood was convicted of three offences which involved the download of 38 videos and 13 indecent images of children, at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court in December 2017.

In January 2018, he was sentenced to a three-year Community Sentence for each offence, to run concurrently, and was made subject to a five-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

He was also fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £340 and a victim surcharge of £85.

Mr Wood was also placed on the barring list by the Disclosure and Barring Service and required to register with the police pursuant to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for a period of five years.

Mr Wood appeared before the Disciplinary Committee, admitted his conviction and accepted that it rendered him unfit to practise veterinary surgery.

In determining the sanction, the Committee says it took into account a number of mitigating factors: his conviction involved no actual harm or risk of harm to an animal; there was no financial gain; he had engaged in open and frank admissions at an early stage; he was experiencing mental ill-health at the time of the offence; he had taken subsequent steps to avoid a repetition of such behaviour; there had been a significant lapse of time since the incident; and he showed insight into the harm caused by his offence. 

The Committee also considered that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish, but to protect the welfare of animals, as well as maintain public confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct. On consideration of the appropriate sanction, the Committee decided that postponement of judgement was not appropriate, and that taking no action was not an option. 

The Committee then considered whether a reprimand or warning was appropriate, but they considered that would not match the gravity of the offence – a period of suspension would also mean Mr Wood would automatically return to the Register after the period of time without the College being able to review his fitness to practise, rendering it an inappropriate sanction.

The Committee therefore determined that the removal of Mr Wood from the RCVS Register was the only way to protect the wider public interest and maintain confidence in the profession.

Ian Green, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee has not taken this decision lightly, and, lest it be misinterpreted, it has not taken it in order to satisfy any notional public demand for blame and punishment.

“It has taken the decision because in its perception, the reputation of the profession had to be at the forefront of its thinking and ultimately it was more important than the interests of the Respondent.

“The decision is not simply based on the fact that these offences were of a sexual nature but because they were repeated frequently over a significant period of time, and at the time, the Respondent knew on his own admission that what he was doing was wrong.

“Accordingly, the Committee had decided that removal from the Register is appropriate and proportionate in this case. The Committee will direct the Registrar to remove the Respondent’s name from the Register forthwith.”

Mr Wood has 28 days to appeal the Committee’s decision after which, if no appeal is received, the Committee’s judgment takes effect.