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  1. Damning verdict on independent legally qualified chairmen. Date - 11th December 2018 By - JJ Hutber- Police Oracle 3 Comments A solicitor with three decades experience advocating for police officers believes legal qualified chairmen have failed to bring more consistency to misconduct hearings. Professional discipline specialist and Police Federation of England and Wales panel solicitor Mark Lane, who has helped protect officers for 31 years, told Police Oracle that independent misconduct panels have not ushered in a new era of transparency. In January 2016 Home Secretary reforms introduced police misconduct panel ‘legally qualified chairmen’ to oversee hearings in the majority of cases instead of senior officers. Then-Home Secretary Theresa May said the new measures would help make the disciplinary process more “robust, independent and transparent to the public”. But as early as January this year a report commissioned by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners raised concerns proceedings are being delayed by a lack of regulation in the system. The report was alarmed by inconsistent decision making by LQCs but was also worried forces are failing to give panel members documents in time and the “derisory” pay for panel members compared to tribunal fees is leading them to cancel at short notice for more lucrative opportunities. The Mayor of London’s Office requires LQCs to have a minimum of five years qualification experience. Cartwright King solicitor Mark Lake has worked with police officers since starting his training contract with Slater Gordon (previously Russell Jones) and became involved with their Police Federation of England and Wales work. He told Police Oracle he believes officers are under more scrutiny than ever. He said: “Police officers have never needed [legal] protection like they have before. “In the past police discipline was used against people perceived to be rotten apples. “Now it’s used for the purposes of enforcing moral values and again with people as opposed to letting them resign medically or pension them off to save money. “In austerity it becomes a very useful agent to punish people who you don’t necessarily like. In the past unless you were dishonest and or had done something so crazily crass they would forgive it. “Historically if you made a bad decision but you did it honestly people would support you. “Now they don’t and if you’ve made a bad decision someone’s got to pay the price because there’s no such thing as a bad decision made honestly.” When asked whether he felt LQCs have brought more consistency to hearings compared to senior officers he said: “No, no. It’s not brought in the quality and consistency, the fairness, the transparency. “All of those things it was supposed to deliver - it hasn’t done it. “It depends on the quality of the LQC and suffice to say they come, like people, in different shapes and sizes. “You may have a silk in front of you who’s got 35 years [experience] and you’ve got somebody in front of you who is not that experienced, not that good.” When asked whether the £366 day fee LQCs are typically paid is putting off applicants, Mr Lake said payment for chairing tribunals and other hearings has become more competitive. “If I’m paying a barrister to do a job Federation funded I pay a lot more than that. “That’s one of the reasons why historically a lot of barristers didn’t want to become judges, the judge was paid a lot less. “Now of course because the fees have gone up particularly at the criminal bar, becoming a judge with a non-contributory pension, £130,000 a year plus benefits is a lot more than a lot of criminal barristers get.” But he said panels should not be criticised for taking lengthy amounts of time to reach a decision. “I work in the line I do and that gives me more empathy with the individual whereas I think some of these people are more interested in how the public perceive the force and how might it be seen. “I wouldn’t give a monkeys about that. “I would take as much time as I think I need for me to vote the way I did and colleagues to get to where they need to be because someone’s life’s affected. “You know any professional person be it a physiotherapist, a fireman whatever it is and you lose your ability to conduct your living - well you’ve got to get a minimum wage job and that’s a big hole in family finances.” View On Police Oracle

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