The outcome of misconduct hearings for officers will be more consistent across England and Wales under new guidance published by the College of Policing today.
Misconduct by officers and staff has a big impact on the public’s confidence in policing and it is important that those who commit serious breaches of professional standards are held to account.
But the public, and those being held to account, must see fairness and proportionality in the outcomes imposed.
Misconduct panels, largely overseen by chief officers and independent legally qualified chairs, will be given the guidance so that there is consistency when they are assessing the seriousness of police misconduct. It does not prescribe the outcome suitable for every case.
The introduction of the guidance will mean there is increased fairness and proportionality in cases which is important for officers and public confidence in the hearings.
As part of assessing the seriousness in cases, misconduct panels will consider, amongst other things the officer's record, culpability for the misconduct, the harm caused, aggravating factors and mitigation.
Aggravating factors will include, for example, any misconduct against a vulnerable person, or where discrimination is evident.
While personal mitigation may also be relevant, the guidance reminds chairs that the case law confirms that the protection of the public and the interests of the profession are important.
The guidance does not, however, override the discretion of those presiding and it cannot and should not prescribe the outcome.
Detective Superintendent Jackie Alexander, College of Policing lead for Professional Standards, said:
“The majority of police officers do their job, and use the significant powers entrusted to them, with courage, honesty and integrity every day.
“However, when conduct is called into question and there is evidence that the professional standards required in policing may have been breached, then it is right and proper that those chairing misconduct proceedings come to consistent and proportionate determinations. The results of which should help maintain the confidence of the public, while also being fair to the officers concerned.
“This new guidance, while acknowledging that every case must be decided on its own facts, will assist those chairing misconduct proceedings by ensuring they have to hand all of the relevant criteria they may wish to take into account when determining whether there is a conduct breach, and if so, the appropriate level of sanction to be imposed.”
The new guidance is available on the College website.