Craig v Farriers Registration Council, Court of Appeal - Administrative Court, April 05, 2017, [2017] EWHC 707 (Admin)

Issuing Organization:Administrative Court
Actores:Craig v Farriers Registration Council
Resolution Date:April 05, 2017
 
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Case No: CO/3764/2016

Neutral Citation Number: [2017] EWHC 707 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 5 April 2017

Before:

MR JUSTICE MORRIS

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Between:

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John Stevenson (instructed by Knights Solicitors) for the Appellant

David Bradly (instructed by Penningtons Manches LLP) for the Respondent

Hearing date: 23 February 2017

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JudgmentMr Justice Morris:

Introduction

  1. This is an appeal by Charles Stuart Craig (``the Appellant''), pursuant to section 15(3) of the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975 (``the 1975 Act'') against the decision of the Disciplinary Committee of the Farriers Registration Council (``the Disciplinary Committee'') dated 30 June 2016 (``the Decision''). The Farriers Registration Council (``the Council'') is the respondent to this appeal. By the Decision, the Disciplinary Committee found that the Appellant had been guilty of serious misconduct in a professional respect and directed that the Appellant's name be removed from the Register of Farriers (``the register'').

  2. The Disciplinary Committee's reasons for the Decision are set out in a written determination (``the Determination'') dated 24 May 2016 and further in a transcript of the proceedings on 30 June 2016.

    Factual Background

  3. Farriers are persons engaged in the shoeing of horses. The Council is the statutory body responsible pursuant to the provisions of the 1975 Act, for maintaining the register and for regulating, in the public interest, those who are the registrants upon the register. At the time the National Farrier Training Agency (``NFTA'') was the body charged with managing farrier apprenticeships.

  4. The Appellant is an experienced farrier of many years' standing. He held a Royal warrant for his services and is one of four elected farrier members of the Council. The other 12 members are appointees of whom only one is a farrier. He was also a member of the Disciplinary Committee, and an Approved Training Farrier (``ATF'').

  5. The proceedings concerned allegations of misconduct towards one of the Appellant's apprentices, Joseph Hopkins (``JH'') over the period July 2012 to May 2013. They arose out of a complaint, initially made by JH's parents to the NFTA and passed by that agency to the Council.

  6. In April 2012 JH and one other candidate had a trial for apprenticeship with the Appellant. At the time JH was aged 19. In the NFTA Candidate Application form dated 24 April 2012, JH disclosed the fact that he had dyslexia. On the same date the two parties signed the NFTA apprenticeship agreement. In May 2012 JH commenced work for the Appellant at the Appellant's yard. On 3 July 2012 his apprenticeship formally commenced. In general the apprenticeship went fairly well and the Appellant was pleased with JH's practical work.

  7. Issues arose in relation to the theoretical part of his training. On 6 December 2012 the NFTA sent to the Appellant an Additional Learning Needs Assessment form concerning JH. On 17 January 2013 an NFTA field officer visited the Appellant and JH. The field officer recorded that the Appellant was happy with the practical work, stating ``apprentice a likeable lad that works hard''. On 21 January 2013 an Improvement Notice was issued and on 25 January 2013 an Improvement Notice meeting with the Appellant took place concerning issues about his theory work for college.

  8. In April 2013 JH made his complaint to NFTA. On 3 May 2013 JH's apprenticeship with the Appellant was terminated by NFTA. On 16 May 2013 the Appellant responded to the complaint. Mr. Wiersma wrote in support of the Appellant's response. The subject of the complaint was ultimately referred to the Disciplinary Committee. It found some of the factual allegations against the Appellant proved but not others. The charges found proved included behaviour towards JH described as bullying and harassment.

  9. By way of background, the Appellant had appeared before the Disciplinary Committee on a previous occasion in late 2002 and in January 2003, had been found guilty of serious misconduct in relation to his behaviour towards four other apprentices in the period 1996 to 2001. In that case ultimately no sanction was imposed by the Disciplinary Committee. The precise nature, relevance and status of that previous decision is one of the points in issue in this appeal.

    The Legislative Framework and Relevant Legal Principles

    The 1975 Act

  10. The 1975 Act is stated to be ``an Act to prevent and avoid suffering by and cruelty to horses arising from the shoeing of horses by unskilled persons; to promote the proper shoeing of horses; to promote the training of farriers and shoeing smiths ... to prohibit the shoeing of horses by unqualified persons''. Thus, the ultimate public interest pursued by the 1975 Act is the prevention of harm to horses.

  11. The Council is established by section 2 of the 1975 Act, and by section 3 there is an obligation upon the registrar (``the Registrar'') to establish and maintain a register of farriers. Section 7 sets out the qualifications, and the procedure for application, for registration. One of those qualifications is the completion of an apprenticeship as prescribed by the Council.

  12. The Council sets standards of conduct as well as performance. The ``Farriers guide to Professional Conduct 2014'' provides, inter alia, that:

    ``employees, including apprentices, should be treated in a fair and reasonable manner, without discrimination, and in accordance with the contract of employment.''

    Further the Equal Opportunity & Anti-Harassment Policy in NFTA's Apprenticeship Handbook, which applied at the time material to the present case, included within its definition of harassment the following: ``undermining other people, humiliating others, offensive language and misuse of authority''.

    The Disciplinary Committee

  13. The Disciplinary Committee is itself established pursuant to section 14. Schedule 3 sets out more detail in relation to the constitution and procedure of the Disciplinary Committee.

  14. Section 15, which is important in the context of the present appeal, makes provision for ``removal of names from register''. It provides, inter alia, as follows:

    ``(1) Where

    (a) a person who is registered by the Council is judged by the Disciplinary Committee to be guilty of serious misconduct in any professional respect; or

    (b) the Disciplinary Committee is satisfied that such a person was not qualified for registration at the time he was registered; or

    (c) such a person has been convicted of an offence involving cruelty to animals;

    (d) ...

    the Committee may, if it thinks fit, direct that the person's name shall be removed from the register or that his registration there in shall be suspended, that is to say, it shall not have effect during a period specified in the direction:...

    ...''

  15. Once removed from the register pursuant to a direction of the Disciplinary Committee, a person cannot be registered again otherwise than following a direction to that effect from the Committee: section 15(7). Section 16 provides for an offence where a person who is not registered on the register carries out any farriery.

    The 1976 Rules

  16. By paragraph 4(4) of Schedule 3 the Council is required to make rules as to the procedure to be followed, and the rules of evidence to be observed, in proceedings before the Disciplinary Committee. The Farriers Registration Council Disciplinary Committee (Procedure) Rules 1976 SI 1976 700 (``the 1976 Rules'') have been made under that provision.

  17. Rule 6 sets out the procedure at an inquiry before the Disciplinary Committee. By rule 6(6), the Committee is required to deliberate and decide in relation to any charge whether the facts alleged have been proved and, in relation to any facts found to have been proved, whether they are such as to substantiate such charge.

  18. Rule 7 provides for the procedure following the finding that a charge is proved, with the Council's solicitor opening the case and the respondent having the opportunity to mitigate and adduce relevant evidence. Rule 7(3) goes on to provide further as follows:

    ``The Committee shall then, after due deliberation, either-

    (i) direct that the respondent's name be removed from the register; or

    (ii) direct that the registration of the respondent be suspended for a specified period; or

    (iii) make no direction with respect to the respondent; or

    (iv) postpone judgment.''

    Rule 7(4) provides that, in the event of a decision of postponement, the Committee ``shall specify either a period for which judgment is postponed, or a date on which the Committee will meet for further consideration of the judgment''.

  19. Thus, as far as the Disciplinary Committee's powers of sanction are concerned, there is a mismatch between the 1975 Act and the 1976 Rules. The former contemplates only sanctions of removal or suspension; the latter expressly contemplates, in addition, powers to impose no sanction and to postpone judgment for a period.

  20. In the course of argument, I was informed that in addition to these options for sanction, in practice, the Disciplinary Committee also issues ``reprimands''. The power to do this is referred to in a document, disclosed after the hearing, entitled ``Guidance Notes for the Disciplinary Committee'' 2010 edition. Paragraph 33 of these Guidance Notes states, after identifying the above sanctions: ``In addition it is accepted convention that the Committee may reprimand the Respondent for the conduct concerned'' and points out that, when considering the sanctions in ascending order, the Committee should consider a reprimand after considering no direction but before considering suspension or removal. When approving these revised Guidance Notes at a Council meeting of 10 November 2010, it was recorded that ``the Notes were not a legal document but provided a useful advisory aid to members of the Disciplinary Committee,...

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