Following a successful appeal to the Privy Council, Leeds-based veterinary surgeon Dr Gary Samuel will not be removed from the Register of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

The Disciplinary Committee of the RCVS had agreed the sanction following a hearing in February 2013, at which it decided that Dr Samuel’s conviction for theft, common assault and a public order offence at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court (22 November 2011) made him unfit to practise veterinary surgery.

Dr Samuel appealed the Disciplinary Committee’s decision and the Privy Council heard the case on 26 March, announcing its decision today [16 April 2014].

Dr Samuel had been sentenced by Cardiff Magistrates’ Court to concurrent terms of 28 days’ imprisonment for theft and common assault and 12 weeks’ imprisonment for the public order offence, all suspended for 12 months. He had also been ordered to carry out 140 hours’ unpaid work and to pay compensation of £75 and costs of £625. The charges related to an incident involving Dr Samuel and his neighbour, described by the Privy Council as “a spontaneous outburst in the course of an angry quarrel between neighbours”, for which it felt that the Disciplinary Committee’s sanction of removal from the Register was “disproportionately severe.”

The Privy Council felt that, in making its decision, the Disciplinary Committee followed too closely the verdict reached by the Magistrates’ Court, and did not take mitigating circumstances sufficiently into account, including whether the attack by Dr Samuel on his neighbour had been provoked by racial abuse.

“It is apparent from the reasons given by the Committee, both on the question of fitness to practise and on the question of sanction, that it was considerably influenced by the fact that the magistrates imposed a suspended prison sentence,” said Lord Toulson, delivering the Privy Council’s judgment.

“Although Dr Samuel pleaded guilty to the theft of the camera and he was not in entitled to go behind his plea, it is nevertheless difficult to understand on the evidence how the prosecution would have proved that there was an intent permanently to deprive [the victim] of it. In all the circumstances, it is hard to conceive that the court would have considered that the offences truly passed the custodial threshold for a person of good character, if it had not had the power to suspend the sentence... Dr Samuel’s conduct was thoroughly reprehensible, but the Board [Privy Council] does not consider that its gravity was such that it would be in the interests of the public now to remit the case to the Committee,” he added.

The Privy Council’s judgment can be read in full here