Judicial Process

The judicial process starts following one of a number of events listed in section 50 of the Act. The most common is when the Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC) lays charges of professional misconduct against a veterinarian following an investigation. The other most common reason for a judicial hearing to be held is where the veterinarian has been found guilty of a criminal offence that could be seen to reflect adversely on the person's fitness to practise. The CAC informs the veterinarian and the Chairperson of the Council of the laying of charges or the need for a hearing. A judicial committee is then formed and a time is set down for a judicial hearing.
 
The Judicial Committee is created under S83 of the Act. It must consist of a minimum of three and a maximum of five members. It must include a barrister or solicitor of the High Court of not less than seven years' practice, and a layperson, and a member of the Council and a veterinarian with relevant experience. One member may satisfy two or more of the above requirements.
 
The Judicial Committee has similar powers to other Administrative Tribunals, like the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal. Some of the procedure for the hearing is stipulated in the Act. (s.47-54). The hearing is held in public (s49), although there is provision for parties to apply for part of the hearing to be held in private, or for suppression of details and names.
 
The hearing generally takes one day but can take more if it is a defended hearing and witnesses are involved. It is usual that the veterinarian appears at the hearing, and veterinarians are often represented by their legal advisor.
 
The hearing is run in a similar way to other administrative tribunals. It follows the general court procedure with less of the formality, but with the same attention paid to the natural justice of the parties. The CAC prosecutes the charges and the veterinarian and/or his/her legal representative defends against the charges. The Judicial Committee uses the standard of the 'balance of probabilities' to make its decision.
 

Decisions of the Committee

These are laid out in Section 51 of the Act. They include:

  • suspension or cancellation of registration or of the practising certificate
  • censure
  • placing conditions of practice upon a person
  • fine
  • refund of professional fee to complainant
  • Costs and expenses of hearing an investigation

Unless full suppression is granted, the Council will publicly notify the decision through means such as a general press release, and via its Newsbrief, website and Annual Report.

Appeals

Appeals against some of the decisions of the Judicial Committee are able to be made to the District Court (or to the High Court on a question of law arising in the Appeal). Section 64 of the Veterinarians Act applies. There may also be jurisdiction for the High Court to consider certain administrative decisions by way of judicial review.
 
 
Click on this link for "VCNZ Guide to the Judicial Committee Process".