Co Cork vet has registration cancelled due to ‘professional misconduct’
Court told Cornelius Linehan (60) let his official stamp be used to certify unfit cattle for export
A vet found guilty of professional misconduct for letting 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. Image: iStock.
A vet found guilty of professional misconduct for letting 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 the Veterinary Council of Ireland’s Fitness to Practise Committee into a number of allegations against him.
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 30th, 2011 on foot of Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP) certificates, 12 cases involved infectious bovine rhinotrachetis (IBR). Twenty animals 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 4½ year suspended sentence. A 2½ 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 fitness to practise inquiry, 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.
Three of the five member committee recommended his registration be cancelled while two advocated a two year suspension. The minority said Mr Linehan had not gained personally apart from keeping in favour with the client.
The Veterinary Council of Ireland endorsed the majority recommendation, saying Mr Linehan’s conduct was at a “very high” point on the spectrum of professional misconduct. It noted there was dishonesty in the completion of certificates and said the misconduct had very serious implications for public confidence in the profession.
JP McDowell, solicitor for the council, said the incorrect certification lead to serious damage internationally to the integrity of Ireland’s departmental certification.
Conor Halpin SC, for Mr Linehan, asked the court to opt instead for suspension or attaching conditions to his client’s practice.
In his ruling last week, approving the cancellation order, Mr Justice Kelly said trust is “at the heart of the veterinary profession as in others”.
The regulator considered the very serious conduct had implications for public confidence in the profession and the sanction should send the appropriate message to the profession and the public.
The judge said he had sympathy for Mr Linehan over the “wholly unjustified” Sunday Times article concerning the private fitness to practise hearing.
The “completely inaccurate” headline said Mr Linehan was to be struck off when the court had not even considered the matter and Mr Linehan was entitled to his reputation before any such order, he said.
However, the judge said neither the article nor Mr Linehan’s age and health were mitigating factors adequate to alter the court’s view the appropriate order was cancellation of registration.