Benjamin Mark Herbert (Dr) v Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong

[2018] 3 HKLRD 133
Court of Appeal
Civil Appeal No 235 of 2016
Yuen and Chu JJA and Godfrey Lam J
11 June 2018

Professions - veterinary surgeon - disciplinary proceedings - misconduct in a professional respect under s.17(1)(a) - not limited to conduct occurring within surgeon's practice and included personal behaviour - Veterinary Surgeons Registration Ordinance (Cap.529) s.17(1)(a)

Words and phrases - "misconduct … in any professional respect" - Veterinary Surgeons Registration Ordinance (Cap.529) s.17(1)(a)

Dr Benjamin (B) was a registered veterinary surgeon and director of a private veterinary clinic. An inquiry committee (IC) of the Veterinary Surgeons Board found B guilty of a disciplinary offence of misconduct in a professional respect under s.17(1)(a) of the Veterinary Surgeons Registration Ordinance (Cap.529), namely sexual harassment of an employee (M) by "improperly or otherwise unnecessarily" sending her "mobile phone text messages with sexual undertone[s]"; and ordered his name to be removed from the register of registered veterinary surgeons for three months, and not restore his name to the register unless and until he successfully applied for such restoration. B appealed, arguing that, inter alia, since M was not a patient or customer of the clinic, B could not be guilty of the charge; the Code of Practice delimited such misconduct which must relate directly to the veterinarian's practice and the welfare of animals.

Held, dismissing the appeal, that there was no definition of "misconduct … in any professional respect" under s.17(1)(a) in the Ordinance. It was clear from the wording of s.18(9) that the IC was not limited to determining only whether there had been a transgression of the matters set out expressly in the Code of Practice, but had a broad purview with no restriction to conduct occurring within a veterinary surgeon's practice only. Thus, misconduct in a professional respect included personal behaviour which fell short of standards, including sufficiently serious conduct of a morally culpable or disgraceful kind remote from the course of professional practice, and reflected adversely on the profession (Albert Wou v Medical Council of Hong Kong [1988] 1 HKLR 388, A County Council v W (Disclosure) [1997] 1 FLR 574, Roylance v General Medical Council) (No 2) [2000] 1 AC 311, R (Remedy UK Ltd) v General Medical Council [2010] EWHC 1245 (Admin) applied). (See paras.18-24, 38.)

Appeal

This was an appeal by a veterinary surgeon against a finding by the inquiry committee of the Veterinary Surgeons Board that he had committed a disciplinary offence of misconduct in a professional respect. The facts are set out in the judgment.

Jurisdictions: 

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