Cork Vet, Cornelius Linehan (60), appeared before the High Court recently, charged with professional misconduct.
It was alleged that the vet from Mallow had allowed an official stamp to be used to certify cattle as fit for export to Morocco when they were not. The high court action came after an inquiry by the Veterinary Council of Ireland’s fitness to practice committee into the allegations. The inquiry was a result of an application from the Department of Agriculture after they received complaints from Moroccan authorities as early as 2011 over cattle imports by the company, Murphy Hunter International Livestock Ltd (MHIL).
Authorities in Morocco claimed that a batch of cattle imported from Ireland in 2011 had twelve cases of infectious IBR. Twenty animals to date died, with another four killed under the emergency slaughter procedure. The haulier, David Hunter, was found guilty of deception and received a four and a half year suspended sentence. He also received a mammoth fine of €100,000 for making a financial gain by the deception. Joan Stafford, a member of staff for MHIL, also had a suspended sentence handed down, two and a half years entirely suspended providing she completes 24-hours of community service.
Vet Mr. Linehan admitted during the VCI FTP committee inquiry that he had provided Ms Stafford on a number of dates, with the Awbeg Vet Clinic official stamp. He denied that he did so for the purpose of Ms Stafford completing one or more PVP certificates with his signatures. The charge was proven against Mr Linehan and labeled as professional misconduct.
He was also charged with professional misconduct over his admission that he completed one or more PVP certificates in respect of certain specified animals when he should have known they were not fit for export. The 60-year-old vet denied that he facilitated the use of his signature by Ms Stafford to complete PVP certificates which appeared to be signed off by him. However, the committee stood by the account of Ms Stafford and found professional misconduct on the vet's behalf.
Out of five committee members, three recommended that the vet have his registration cancelled.
Two of the members also pushed for a two-year suspension, though the minority believed that the vet had not intentionally certified positive animals as negative. They believe he had no knowledge of the animals and was only keeping in the good books of his client. The recommendation of cancellation was endorsed by the Council of the VCI, noting that Mr Linehan’s conduct was highly dishonest and had serious implications on public confidence in the veterinary profession.
JP McDowell, solicitor for the Council, said the incorrect certification lead to serious damage internationally to the integrity of Ireland's departmental certification.
Solicitor for Mr Linehan, Conor Halpin, opposed the recommended cancellation and asked for a suspension to be given instead. Mr Justice Kelly ruled that the cancellation order go ahead.