90 days from today is Thu, 28 December 2023
25 November 2021
Greater Manchester Police Federation Conduct Leads react to the NPCC trying to turn misconduct hearings into ‘kangaroo courts’
In his keynote speech at the APCC & NPCC Partnership Summit 2021, NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt told delegates it has asked all chief constables to chair more accelerated hearings, “wherever the grounds are met, to swiftly determine the facts”, and to make submissions to Legally Qualified Chairs “wherever appropriate, so that sanctions always meet the gravity of an offence.”
Chiefs have also been advised by the NPCC to seek judicial reviews where dismissal is not the outcome, and it wants the College of Policing guidance amended. The Federation believes this is to influence dismissals and hamstring panels.
Reacting, Mike Peake and Mark Wood said: “For far too long it has been the perception of our members who unfortunately find themselves being taken through the misconduct proceedings that, “The Outcome is fete complete i.e. It’s a Done Deal Already”.
“PFEW and undoubtedly all local Federation branches throughout England and Wales have been making similar representations on behalf of our members for many years in seeking to improve the processes and perceptions for all interested parties. We have more recently adopted the New 2020 Police Misconduct Regulations, that are still taking their time to embed within the organisation and PSB branches across the country. Prior to the New Regulations coming into place all key stake holders had the opportunity to actively engage in the consultation process and make their respective representations that ultimately shaped our new legislation and guidelines.
“Further to this the ethos of the new Regulations actively supports matters being dealt with by way of learning where appropriate in the circumstances. Therefore, allowing the IOPC and PSB’s to concentrate on the most serious complaints and conduct matters that would attract if a case was to be found proven a sanction of at least a “Written Warning”.
“In addition to this due to the delays in bringing in the new regulations, a circular was disseminated by the Director General Michael Lockwood (IOPC) and Chief Constables Guildford and Jelly to ALL Chief Constables actively encouraging them to start embracing and adopting the New Regulations prior to the inception date of 1st February 2020.
“For the NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt to now suggest Chief Constables should hold “More Accelerated Hearings wherever the grounds are met to swiftly determine the facts” and to make submissions to the “LQC’s wherever appropriate so that sanctions always meet the gravity of an offence” is deeply troubling to say the least.
“This has all the hallmarks of returning towards 43 different Chief Constables interpreting this message differently and embarking upon their own delivery within a structured and transparent process that already exists. This can only be perceived as a direct attempt to unduly influence Chief Constables into making rash decisions to hold “Part 5 Accelerated Hearings” where perhaps the circumstances do not truly fit the criteria for a “Part 5 Accelerated Hearing”.
“The Regulations in respect of the holding “Part 5 Accelerated Hearings” are quite clear as at para 49:
49.—(1) On receipt of a statement submitted by the investigator under regulation 21(3), the appropriate authority must determine whether the special conditions are satisfied.
(2) The special conditions are that—
(a)there is sufficient evidence, in the form of written statements or other documents, to establish on the balance of probabilities that the conduct of the officer concerned constitutes gross misconduct, and
(b) it is in the public interest for the officer concerned to cease to be a member of a police force or a special constable without delay.
When looking at paragraph 49 (2)(b) it is somewhat discouraging to highlight yet again there are numerous examples of Chief Constables and AA’s not truly complying with the spirit of the regulations in terms of timescales for holding “Part 5 Accelerated Hearings” in excessive of 9 months to hold such a hearing it quite simply not good enough. This has a further detrimental impact upon not only all interested parties but also upon the officer and their families often leading to a decline in their mental health and wellbeing. Such delays are not conducive to enhancing the public perception and confidence within the process. As. Misconduct leaders in GMPF we have been consistently raising timeliness of investigations as one of our top priorities with the Appropriate Authorities’. There is regrettably still, much further work to be done within this point alone for the benefit of all, however we are encouraged to see some improvements within this area.
Turning to the second point raised within the article “to make submissions to Legally Qualified Chairs “wherever appropriate, so that sanctions always meet the gravity of an offence.” This is unfortunately nothing new in GMP our experience tends to suggest that the AA’s instruct counsel to always seek dismissal without notice in cases found proven for Gross Misconduct, when consideration of “ Sanction” arises.
There is clear guidance referenced within the College of Policing Guidance in terms of arriving at the most appropriate sanction in the given circumstances. It is not always the case that it naturally follows having found a case proven to be Gross Misconduct that “Dismissal Without Notice” MUST be the only appropriate sanction available to the panel. All interested parties together with the wider members of the public should have trust and confidence within the process and within that ”Trust and Confidence” in the process the independent panels decision should be by enlarge accepted as a “Fair and proportionate Outcome” unless there are grounds for appeal.
This is one of the most disappointing developments within the Misconduct portfolio:
“Chiefs have also been advised by the NPCC to seek judicial reviews where dismissal is not the outcome, and it wants the College of Policing guidance amended. The Federation believes this is to influence dismissals and hamstring panels”.
There appears to be a growing perception that the “Appropriate Authorities want it all their own way” on occasions, despite lawful submissions being made throughout proceedings that are sensible, reasoned, rationalised and considered that leads the panel to deliver an appropriate outcome in all of the circumstances.
GMPF will continue to monitor this particular point with interest, as PFEW Conduct Lead Phill Matthews rightly points out there must be trust and confidence within the process for all parties and this tact goes someway to significantly undermining the very principles of a “Fair and Transparent Process”