Dr John Walker, who was struck off by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) for backdating vaccination certificates, has won his appeal against the disciplinary judgement.

And now his supporters have called for an independent inquiry into the procedures of the RCVS disciplinary committee.

Dr Walker — known as Alan — , 61, of Hook Norton Veterinary Surgeons, learnt last Wednesday that his appeal to the Privy Council against the judgement made in January had been successful and would be replaced by a six-month period of suspension from working as a vet. The suspension starts from 14 December.

The Privy Council is the highest appeal court in the land.

At the original hearing, Dr Walker admitted entering false information on the passports of two racehorses, implying that they had received vaccinations for equine influenza and tetanus within the deadline stipulated by the Jockey Club, when in fact the injections were more than two weeks late.

Dr Walker was at the time chairman of the Racehorse Veterinarians’ Association.

He told the disciplinary committee of his “devastation, embarrassment and remorse,” over the incident which he said was “a mistake”.

Dr Walker, who was allowed to work while waiting for the result of his appeal, said: “I felt I was very harshly done-by in the first place, that’s why I appealed.

“It has been an extremely difficult 10 months but I have had terrific support from my wife, friends and colleagues.”

He was helped in his appeal by a 300 name petition by fellow vets, who felt the original sentence was out of proportion to Dr Walker’s actions. They helped raise more than £17,000 to pay for a barrister to represent him at the Privy Council hearing.

Appeal fund secretary, Lichfield vet Richard Stephenson, said: “Everyone will be delighted with the decision. The penalty is far more balanced and will be seen as fair.”

Mr Stephenson has now called for an independent inquiry into the workings of the RCVS disciplinary committee.

Chairman of the appeal fund, vet Richard Jones from Kent, said: “This case is one of several which have caused members to lose confidence in the college’s disciplinary process.”

Gordon Hockey of the RCVS said: “Before the Privy Council decision was made, the College had already announced that the Disciplinary Committee intended to produce guidance on decision making and indicative sanctions, to ensure transparency and consistency of approach.

“This new guidance will be finalised shortly and published online before the end of the year.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (29 November, ’07)