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Kentford-based Animal Health Trust sees former leading vet struck off professional register after impersonation attempt

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A former leading vet at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) has been struck off after she wrote a bogus letter, impersonating a fictitious Home Office inspector, to get her research study published.

Dr Sue Dyson, once head of clinical orthopaedics at the Centre for Equine Studies, at the Kentford-based trust which has since closed, forged a document in an attempt to show her study into the impact of heavy riders on horses had been approved by the government, when it had not.

She invented an esteemed veterinarian by the name of Dr J C Butler who appeared to endorse her research in a letter. But when her fraud was uncovered she was reported for disgraceful conduct and, following a hearing which concluded last week, the disciplinary committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons struck her off the professional register.

The Animal Health Trust, in Kentford.
The Animal Health Trust, in Kentford.

At the hearing, Dr Dyson admitted that she had written and sent the letter and that its contents were misleading and risked undermining a Government system designed to promote animal welfare and research ethics, but she denied her actions had been dishonest, claiming she had amnesia.

She also denied she had made dishonest and misleading remarks to colleagues in meetings, and correspondence, leading up to the letter being sent.

The disciplinary committee heard Dr Dyson had completed her research in 2018 and proposed to publish the results in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical Applications and Research.

After peer-reviewing the project paper at the request of Journal editor Karen Overall, Dr Matthew Parker, a senior lecturer in behavioural pharmacology at the University of Portsmouth, was concerned by the lack of a Home Office licence and asked for details or an explanation of why the project didn’t need one, and for the paper to be re-submitted. Dr Dyson replied: “We have a former Home Office inspector on our AHT ethical committee and two current licence holders who are fully conversant with the current legislation. I also sought informal advice from a current inspector. All were fully aware of the protocols to be employed and gave me assurance that in their opinion Home Office approval would not be required”. Ms Overall then asked Dr Dyson to get a letter from the Home Office to support this position.

In December 2018, Dr Dyson sent a letter purportedly from a Home Office inspector called Dr Butler confirming advice had been sought for the project and that, in its opinion, a Home Office licence was not required. Further investigations by Dr Parker revealed the Home Office had no record of ever employing a Dr Butler.

Dr Dyson said her decision to send the letter was one she would eternally regret and that she was an inherently honest person. She told the hearing she was under a huge amount of pressure in her personal and professional life and she was fully aware she acted completely inappropriately. The committee believed Dr Dyson knew what she was doing at the time, but acknowledged she may subsequently have blanked out what she did. It was satisfied the writing and sending of the letter was the culmination of a course of dishonest conduct.

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