Tuesday 22 October 2019

Vet has registration cancelled after allowing stamp certify cattle which were unfit for export

Stock image.
Stock image.

A vet found guilty of professional misconduct over allowing his official stamp be used to certify some cattle as fit for export to Morocco - when they were not - has had his registration cancelled by the High Court.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, made the order against Cornelius Linehan (60), of Old Cork Road, Mallow, Co Cork.

It followed an inquiry by a Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI)  Fitness to Practice Committee (FTP) into a number of allegations against Mr Linehan.

The Department of Agriculture applied for that inquiry arising from complaints by the Moroccan authorities in August 2011 over beef cattle exports by Murphy Hunter International Livestock Ltd (MHIL). 

The Moroccan authorities said that, of a batch of animals imported from Ireland on June 30, 2011, on foot of Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP) certificates, 12 cases involved  infectious bovine rhinotrachetis (IBR), 20 animals to date had died and another four were slaughtered under an emergency slaughtering procedure.

David Hunter of MHIL was later found guilty of making a gain by deception and was fined €100,000 and given a four and a half year suspended sentence.

A two and a half year sentence imposed on a member of his office staff, Joan Stafford, was entirely suspended on her completing 24 hours community service.

During the subsequent inquiry by the VCI’s FTP committee, Mr Linehan admitted he provided Ms Stafford on one or more unidentified dates with the practice stamp for Awbeg Veterinary Clinic.

While denying he did so for the purpose of her completing one or more PVP certificates signed by him, that charge was found proven and to amount to professional misconduct.

Professional misconduct was also found over his admission he completed one or more PVP certificates in respect of certain specified animals when he ought to have known the animal and/or animals were ineligible for export.

Mr Linehan denied that he, on one or more unidentified dates, facilitated the use of his signature by Ms Stafford for the purpose of facilitating completion by her of one or more PVP certificates purported to have been signed by him.

However the FTP committee preferred her evidence and also found professional misconduct on that charge.

Three of the five member committee recommended his registration be cancelled while two advocated a two year suspension.

The minority said Mr Linehan did not intentionally certify positive animals as negative, did not knowingly certify diseased animals for export and had not gained personally apart from keeping in favour with the client.

The Council of the VCI endorsed the majority recommendation of cancellation.

The High Court heard the incorrect certification led to serious damage internationally to the integrity of Ireland's departmental certification.

Conor Halpin SC, for Mr Linehan, opposed cancellation and asked the court to opt instead for suspension or attaching conditions to his client’s practice.

Cancellation would be very significant as his 60 year old client would not have time to work his way back into practice and his problems were compounded by publication some weeks ago of an “unprecedented” Sunday Times article concerning the confidential hearing of the FTP inquiry, counsel said.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said he would make the cancellation order.

Trust is “at the heart of the veterinary profession as in others”, he said.

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