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Force accused of holding misconduct hearing in private against wishes of chairman


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But spokesman says they had never held behind-closed-doors meeting before the claim made.

Force accused of holding misconduct hearing in private against wishes of chairman

A force has been accused of holding a misconduct hearing in private against the wishes of the independent chairman in charge of the process.

An anonymous survey for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners found that legally qualified chairs (LQCs) across England and Wales are concerned about numerous issues related to publicity.

Since the law was changed in May 2015 all misconduct and special case hearings must be held in in public by default. And since January 2016 they have all been overseen by independent legally qualified people, who must approve requests for private hearings.

Issues raised by those LQCs in the survey include:

  • there is no power to hold the media in contempt for publishing information they have ordered be withheld, as in criminal proceedings.
  • there is no process or guidance for dealing with objections from the media on such rulings.

Without permission

Sussex Police is accused of going against the wishes of the chairman and holding a hearing in private when it had no permission to do so.

A report accompanying the survey said: "Several respondents indicated that there had been issues relating to process and procedure: one respondent stated that they believed that some forces are less familiar with the independence of the chairs position, another respondent cited an instance involving Sussex Police, where the police continued to hold a meeting in private, despite the LQC not having given permission for this.”

But the force, which earlier in the same document is named as being one of the best at how it treats the process, says it has no idea what the claim is about.

A spokesman said: "We are not aware what the reference in the APCC report on LQC survey results refers to as we have not asked for any element, in part or full, of a gross misconduct hearing with a legally qualified chair to be heard in private.

"Indeed, since the new requirement for gross misconduct hearings to be held in public was introduced, Sussex Police has only heard one special measures hearing in private and that was on January 2 this year, when an officer was dismissed in advance of a trial on January 5 where he pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office, possession of indecent images of children and making an indecent image of a child. The case is still active."

That case also occurred since the survey took place, he pointed out.

Following Police Oracle's inquiries, the wording in the APCC report has been changed and the organisation says, as it does not know who wrote the comment, it is trying to find out more information via an umbrella body for LQCs.

The Home Office has previously told Police Oracle that there is no oversight body to make sure the legislation relating to misconduct hearings is upheld, and it does not "intend to prescribe all aspects of how each police force should administer public hearings".

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