Hampshire-based Robert Russell has been struck off by the RCVS Disciplinary Committee after he was convicted of possessing indecent images of children and extreme animal abuse.

Dr Russell, 64, who waived his right to attend the hearing, was convicted in 2023 of three offences: making indecent photographs of a child, possessing 2,280 prohibited images of a child and possessing 109 extreme pornographic images that included moving images that were grossly offensive.

After pleading guilty to making indecent photographs/pseudo-photographs of a child, possessing a prohibited image of a child, and possessing extreme pornographic image/images portraying sexual acts with an animal, Dr Russell was sentenced at Winchester Crown Court to a two-year community order, a 30-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, 150 hours of community service and a forfeiture and destruction order of Seagate Drive, Toshiba hard drive and Lenovo tablet.

In addition, he was required to register with the police for 5 years and made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for five years.

He was also required to pay prosecution costs of £425 and £60 victim surcharge.

Counsel for the College submitted to the Disciplinary Committee that the nature and circumstances of the offences rendered Dr Russell unfit to practise as a veterinary surgeon.

The Committee considered there to be several aggravating factors including, actual (albeit indirect) injury to an animal or child; the risk of harm to an animal or child; sexual misconduct; premeditated conduct; and, that the offences involved vulnerable children and animals.  

Neil Slater, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee has reached the conclusion that Dr Russell’s behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with being a veterinary surgeon, namely grave offences of a sexual nature.

"Dr Russell’s behaviour was so serious that removal of professional status and the rights and privileges accorded to that status is considered to be the only means of protecting the wider public interest and of maintaining confidence in the profession.

“The Committee has not taken this decision lightly, and, lest it be misinterpreted, it has not taken it in order to satisfy any notional public demand for blame and punishment.

"It has taken the decision because, in its judgment, the reputation of the profession has to be at the forefront of its thinking and ultimately this is more important than the interests of Dr Russell.

"The decision is not simply based on the fact that these offences were of a sexual nature but because they were repeated over a significant period of time and at a time when Dr Russell must have known, on his own plea of guilty, that what he was doing was wrong.

"Further, the Committee can discern no evidence that Dr Russell has insight into the gravity of the offence he has committed.

"The Committee has therefore directed the Registrar to remove his name from the Register forthwith.”

Dr Russell has 28 days from being notified of his removal from the Register to lodge an appeal with Privy Council.

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