Challenges to RCVS council election dismissed
A committee set up by the RCVS has dismissed two separate challenges that were made against its 2017 council elections.
The challenges came from Tom Lonsdale and John Davies, who both stood for election last year and came 15th and 16th respectively, out of 16 candidates.
A Challenge Committee sat with one of the college’s legal assessors, Richard Price OBE CQ, to consider whether to declare the election void, on the basis that the allegations rendered the election substantially not in accordance with the election scheme, or that the allegations significantly affected the results of the election.
Mr Davies challenged the election results on the basis of edits made to his candidate biography and statement, before circulation to the electorate. The RCVS says these changes were made by the returning officer on the grounds that they were considered to be defamatory and/or factually misleading. The edits came after failed attempts to agree an amended form of wording with Mr Davies.
However, following written submissions from the RCVS and Mr Davies, the committee dismissed the challenge, saying there was no valid basis for challenging the validity of the election. The returning officer is not required to accept statements which she reasonably considers to be defamatory, otherwise unlawful or factually misleading. Statements may be edited without agreement under the election scheme.
Mr Lonsdale alleged that the election had been furthered by corrupt practices, namely undue influence. His challenge also concerned the refusal to include hypertext links in his candidate statement and the removal of references which the returning officer believed to be defamatory. Mr Lonsdale challenged the college’s refusal to publish his ‘Quiz the candidates’ video on the RCVS website and/or YouTube channel. The college said requests to make minor amendments to comments considered defamatory were refused by Mr Lonsdale.
Dismissing the challenge, committee members said they considered it to be ‘totally devoid of merit’.
Two preliminary challenges made by Mr Lonsdale were also considered and dismissed prior to this decision. The first related to members of the committee, whom he argued should stand down on the basis of actual or apparent bias, owing to alleged ‘connections with the pet food industry’.
The committee concluded that the connection of its members to the pet food industry were ‘…remote, indirect and, in the case of one panel member, virtually non-existent’. They also said they were satisfied that there was ‘…no real possibility of their judgement being distorted or influenced by any interest in, or links with, the pet food industry’.
Mr Lonsdale further alleged that Mr Richard Price displayed bias in the way that he advised the committee, in relation to his challenge over the committee membership. This charge was also dismissed.
Both John Davies and Tom Lonsdale are standing in the 2018 RCVS Council elections.