18 May 2022
The second and concluding day of this year’s PFEW Annual Conference commenced with a panel discussion to address the constraints faced in the existing procedures practised in deciding misconduct cases.
The panel members were equivocal about making misconduct hearings time-bound and making efforts to eradicate delays, which have an impact both financially and reputationally for police officers facing such hearings.
Putting forth the IOPC’s stand on the issue, Kathie Cashell, Director of Strategy and Impact at IOPC, said the police watchdog is more concerned about delays after the investigation. She said: “It is not complete until all the procedures are finalised. That is why we need a multi-agency approach to remove delays. We have to make sure the spotlight is on the time taken in end-to-end procedures and not just investigations.”
PFEW’s Conduct and Performance Lead Phill Matthews said: “There are more than 300 cases with the IOPC which have been ongoing for more than 12 months. It is because of these delays that we need the time limit.”
Making out a case for indemnity and immunity of Legally Qualified Chair members, who are at the centre of misconduct hearings, John Bassett, Chair of the National Association of Legally Qualified Chairs, said they welcome more powers of case management to LQCs, adding: “But it should also be remembered that we are not trained investigators.” Mr Bassett also raised concerns about the degradation in standards of the Professional Standards Department.
The system of LQCs leading misconduct hearings has been in place since 2016 while there have been calls for reverting to the previous practice of chief officers presiding over such hearings. Reiterating the staff association’s stand on the issue, Mr Matthews said: “It would be damaging to go back to the old ways of dealing with misconduct cases, that is why we are not in favour of accelerated hearings as they tend to get overused.”
Representing the side of chief officers, Chief Constable Craig Guildford of Nottinghamshire Police said he was optimistic about the future of the system followed to address misconduct cases and appealed for continued help from the IOPC and PFEW. He said: “We are committed to fairness and timeliness in conducting and concluding misconduct hearings. Every individual case of delay faced in misconduct hearings needs to be called out by federation representatives.”
Supporting the chief constable, Mr Matthews declared PFEW had been helping members recover costs in cases of delays and would continue to do so. He concluded: “Recently we were successful in recovering 56 per cent of the cost incurred in a case of delay. We will continue to fight to get your costs back. I am encouraged by the direct support and want LQCs to remain at the centre of deciding misconduct cases. We do not want to revert back to the old system of reducing hearings to a kangaroo court.” In support, Mr Bassett said: “It is not fair to rest powers back into the hands of chief constables.”