Council members approve permanent private prosecution protocol and new registration appeals committee

At its Thursday 6 June meeting, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Council, the organisation’s governing body, met at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole, where the meeting was being held to coincide with BVA Live, which took place at the Birmingham NEC.

The evening before the meeting, RCVS President Dr Sue Paterson FRCVS had also chaired one of the College’s regular Regional Question Times at the Strawberry Bank Hotel in Meriden, where topics raised by members of the professions included the upcoming Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) market investigation and the College’s good governance proposals.

Vetlife presentation

The Council meeting started with a presentation by James Russell, President of Vetlife, about the charity, which provides independent, confidential and free help for everyone in the veterinary community including veterinary nurses, students and non-clinical staff via its helpline and its financial and health support programmes.

James outlined the how the charity helps members of the veterinary team, for example, via referrals for psychological support, financial support and support for those who have been impacted by suicide within the profession. He also spoke about current levels of demand for its various services, noting a particular uptick in requests for financial assistance. As part of his presentation, he also thanked the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative for its ongoing financial support for Vetlife via its £100,000 per annum donation to the charity, together with financial support for Vetlife volunteer training and the Helpline answering service.

President and CEO introductions

Sue Paterson then asked members and guests of Council to observe a minute’s silence for members of the professions who had died since the last meeting, and in recognition of the day being the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings during the Second World War.

As part of her update to RCVS Council, RCVS Chief Executive Lizzie Lockett gave a summary of the recent Artificial Intelligence (AI) Roundtable held at the Institution of Engineering and Technology earlier in May as well as highlighting the College’s ‘Good Governance’ consultation, which was due to launch on Monday 10 June (further information at

She also relayed how the College had been busy responding to detailed requests for information from the CMA as part of its market investigation of the veterinary sector, and how the results of the Survey of the Professions, which were undertaken at the beginning of this year, would be published shortly.

Private prosecutions protocol

The first major item for decision by Council was on the future of the private prosecutions protocol that had been launched for a 12-month trial period last year and was now up for review.

The protocol sets out how the RCVS can launch private prosecutions through the criminal courts against individuals where there is evidence they have been breaching the Veterinary Surgeons Act. The protocol allows for private prosecutions in respect of two specific aspects of the Veterinary Surgeons Act: Section 19 relates to breaches of the restriction of the practice of veterinary surgery by unqualified individuals (not including those with exceptions under Schedule 3 of the Act) and Section 20 relating to prohibition of use of the title veterinary surgeons by unqualified individuals.

In introducing the paper RCVS Registrar Eleanor Ferguson said that, although the RCVS had not undertaken any private prosecutions during the trial period, it had proved useful in terms of gathering information about potential breaches of the Veterinary Surgeons Act and liaison with other agencies. The decision to continue the protocol in some form had also been agreed in principle by the College’s Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC) / Disciplinary Committee (DC) Liaison Committee.

Some enforcement action was also undertaken, including cease and desist letters being sent by the College in five cases and one case of an unregistered person practising veterinary surgery being referred to the police who gave the individual a police caution. The full details can be found in the Council papers at:

Following a discussion amongst members, Council voted to approve the continuation of the private prosecutions protocol on a permanent basis, with a ringfenced amount of money being available in the College’s reserves to launch private prosecutions for VSA breaches when it is deemed appropriate.

Speaking after the meeting RCVS Registrar Eleanor Ferguson said: “Although we foresee that there will be relatively few private prosecutions taking place, it is necessary to have the protocol as a backstop because we recognise that UK police forces do not always have the time and resources necessary to pursue breaches of the VSA. We thank Council members for approving this scheme on a permanent basis.”

Registration Appeals Committee and delegation scheme

Council members also voted to approve the foundation of a new Registration Appeals Committee as well as its proposed registration appeals rules. The Registration Appeals Committee would allow those who have been refused registration by the RCVS to join either the Register of Veterinary Surgeons or Veterinary Nurses to appeal the College’s decision. The ability to appeal would apply to all registration categories.

Council members also voted to approve some minor amendments to the RCVS delegation scheme, which sets out the decisions and powers delegated by RCVS Council to its standing committees.

Election of Education Committee Chair

RCVS Council members voted to elect Professor Tim Parkin FRCVS, Head of the University of Bristol Veterinary School, as the new Chair of the Education Committee, to replace Dr Kate Richards MRCVS when she leaves Council following the Annual General Meeting on Friday 5 July 2024.

Kate Richards has chaired the Education Committee since July 2022 and, among other things, has in that time has helped lead the initial work on the Veterinary Clinical Careers Pathway (VCCP) project, lead the Committee in approving the new Extra-Mural Studies (EMS) policy and steered the college through its recent ENQA accreditation.

Education Committee is responsible for setting the policy for undergraduate and postgraduate education and training of veterinary surgeons and determining the requirements for those seeking registration, for the award of qualifications, for continuing professional development and for recognition as RCVS Advanced Practitioner and RCVS Specialist.

At the AGM in July, Professor Parkin is also expected to be confirmed as RCVS Junior Vice-President for 2024/25.

For the full papers for the public session of the June RCVS Council meeting visit:

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