These hearings preside over serious misconduct cases in what is an important aspect of the disciplinary rules that govern the police.
Following a public consultation led by the Home Secretary in the autumn of 2014, changes have made to the police disciplinary system for the purposes of more transparency, independence and justice. From May 2015 all police misconduct hearings should be held in public unless there are special circumstances when it is necessary and appropriate for all or parts of a hearing to be held in private.
From January 2016, these Panels should be led by a legally qualified Chair, instead of a Chief Police Officer. In the North West (Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside) a list of nominated chairs is maintained by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside. Chairs are appointed to panels on a rolling programme.
Police Misconduct Panel consist of three persons: the Chair, a police officer of the rank of superintendent or above, and an independent member from the list of candidates maintained by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside.
Nature of Cases
A Police Misconduct Hearing (PMH) is convened to hear allegations of serious cases of misconduct by police officers. The facts will be heard by the Panel, including where available, witness testimony and the panel will make a finding. The Panel will decide whether the conduct of the officer concerned amounts to misconduct, gross misconduct or neither and impose any disciplinary action as appropriate, or in the case of a finding of misconduct take no further action.
If the officer or staff member is found to have committed gross misconduct the available sanctions are:
- Management advice
- Written warning
- Final written warning
- Dismissal with notice
- Dismissal without notice
The maximum sanction at this hearing would be dismissal from the police service without notice. Cases would include for example, allegations of criminal acts, serious road traffic matters such as drink/driving or serious breaches of the standards expected of police officers such as neglect of duty. The PMH could also be convened to consider the final stages of action under performance regulations, where police officers can be dismissed for unsatisfactory performance or attendance.
Legally Qualified Chairs
Chairs are required to travel to hearings held in the areas of the five police force areas.
The main activities of the Chair are as follows:
- Reviewing papers;
- Preparing for a hearing ;
- Making pre-hearing decisions on whether witnesses are permitted to be called to give evidence at the hearing and whether to require notice of the hearing;
- Report writing.
The Chair has responsibility for:
- ensuring that parties who are not always represented are able to present their case and have it considered fully and fairly;
- ensuring that hearings are conducted efficiently and effectively in a manner compatible with the interests of natural justice;
- ensuring that misconduct hearing are held in public subject to the Chair determining otherwise in accordance with the Regulations.
In addition to a qualified chair the Police Misconduct Hearings also includes a member of the public to reassure the community that police misconduct matters are treated seriously and are properly investigated and adjudicated.
Independent Members must be able to constructively challenge accepted facts and views to make fair and evidence-based judgments about an officer’s conduct and agree an appropriate course of action.
In the North West, the offices for the Police and Crime Commissioners for Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside recruited Independent Members to sit on these Panels. Following applications and interviews these members were selected in January 2016.
You can find out more information about Police Misconduct Hearings in Merseyside, including details on upcoming hearings and the outcomes of previous hearings here.