Police officers – as public service professionals – are exposed to greater public scrutiny than many other professions. This scrutiny involves a robust disciplinary system which deals with everything from allegations of criminality to allegations of misconduct.
To focus in on allegations of misconduct, the relevant rules are contained in the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 and the Police (Conduct) (Amendment) Regulations 2015.
The Appeals Tribunal
The Police (Discipline) Appeals Tribunal hears appeals against the findings of internal disciplinary proceedings brought against members of the police force.
The Police Appeals Tribunal deals with matters that have been dealt with under the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 and the Police (Performance) Regulations 2012 (as amended).
A police officer can appeal a disciplinary finding made against them through this process.
Composition of Police Appeals Tribunal
If the officer making the appeal is not a senior officer, then the Tribunal will be made up of a legally qualified chair, a serving senior officer and a retired member of a police force who was a member of an appropriate staff association.
An appropriate staff association is the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales where the appellant was a chief superintendent or superintendent. Where the appellant was of any other rank, the appropriate staff association is the Police Federation of England and Wales.
Where the appellant is a senior officer, the Tribunal will be made up of a legally qualified chair; HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary or an Inspector nominated by the Chief Inspector and the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office or a Home Office Director as nominated by the Permanent Secretary.
When going through a professional conduct investigation, it is important to know that matters will be dealt with swiftly. It is therefore important to note that a tribunal will take place no later than 3 months of a determination by the tribunal chair that a hearing should be held.
It is also important to note that fairness should be at the heart of the process. The members who sit on the Tribunal are to be sufficiently independent of the matter so as not to suggest unfairness.
What happens at the Tribunal
The tribunal is not simply a forum to go over the original issues at play – it is not a re-hearing of all the facts and evidence. Instead, the appeal is based on specific grounds.
A police officer can appeal to a tribunal in reliance on one or more of the following grounds of appeal:-
- The finding or disciplinary action imposed was unreasonable; or
- There is evidence that could not reasonably have been considered at the original hearing which could have materially affected the finding or decision on disciplinary action; or
- There was a breach of procedure or other unfairness which could have materially affected the finding or decision on disciplinary action
In the event that a police officer wants to appeal to a tribunal, the office shall give notice of the appeal to the relevant local policy body. It is possible for the officer to request a transcript of the proceedings at the original hearing in his notice of appeal. This can be a very useful tool for any appeal and can help inform your legal representative.
At a tribunal hearing, you can be represented by a lawyer. It is also possible to be represented by a police friend.
Legal representation is not compulsory but can be hugely significant in protecting your rights. For example, there is the power to request disclosure of documents. This involves the appellant (or respondent) applying to the chair of the tribunal for disclosure of any document by the other party which is relevant to the appeal. A legally qualified professional will be able to steer you in the right direction in using this powerful tool, which can be crucial in building a strong appeal.
Procedure at the hearing is determined by the tribunal. The tribunal can proceed with the hearing in the absence of either the appellant or respondent, whether they are represented or not, if it appears to be just and proper to do so. The appellant’s evidence will generally be given first and witnesses giving evidence can be questioned by both parties. Witness statements can also be submitted in place of oral evidence.
Ultimately, the tribunal will determine whether the grounds of appeal have been met. The tribunal can set aside a decision and remit the matter to be decided again. A written statement of the tribunal’s decision will be provided and reasons for the decision will be given.
Contact Mark Kelly - Expert Police Disciplinary Tribunals Barrister UK
As with all allegations which call into question the ability of an individual to do their job satisfactorily, it is important to have sterling representation from the outset. Not only is your professional reputation and livelihood at risk, professional disciplinary procedures can have a significant negative impact on an individual’s private life. I have a range of experience in this field – involving both criminal and disciplinary proceedings.
For example, I represented a police officer both in criminal proceedings and the associated disciplinary proceedings in a case where the officer’s force had investigated him in a sting operation. It was alleged that the officer in question had stolen money in an unmarked police car. The officer was acquitted in respect of both that matter and a related misconduct charge.
If you are facing an allegation of misconduct or are looking for representation at a Tribunal, my expertise in this area can help you navigate this difficult personal and professional time.
Serving Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, London, Bristol and the rest of the UK. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me directly on 020 8108 7186 or fill out a contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.