Misconduct reforms: Officers ‘need lawyers if job on the line’
Supers’ President says lawyers should not be removed from gross misconduct proceedings.
Home Office proposals to deny officers a lawyer in gross misconduct hearings when their job hangs in the balance is a “a real threat”, the Superintendents’ Association has insisted.
Speaking at the staff association’s annual conference, President Irene Curtis told the delegates, including the Home Secretary, that plans to remove the right to legal advice at hearings or third stage unsatisfactory performance procedures was “a huge issue” for the superintending ranks.
She acknowledged the government’s professional standards reforms were designed to bring policing more in line with other professions – but pointed out other professionals had a right to a lawyer when they faced dismissal.
Under Home Office proposals, a consultation on which has now closed, the chair of a gross misconduct panel would decide whether an officer could have a lawyer during part of proceedings.
The move is part of the government’s wider reform package, which also includes the introduction of registers for hospitality and second employment as well as a list of those “struck off” for misconduct
In her speech, Ch Supt Curtis told Theresa May: “(The removal of lawyers) is a huge issue. If somebody is in a position where they might lose their job, removing their right to legal advice for us is a real threat.
“We are really concerned about the impact this might have on individuals and it comes at a time when the College of Policing has been introduced to try and move policing onto the same level as other professions.
“Yet you look at other professional bodies and they all have legal representation where people are in a position where they might lose their job.”
Although she did not elaborate further, Ch Supt Curtis added the association’s response to the consultation included alternative proposals, adding: “We hope that the government listens to us.”
Mrs May did not address the proposed changes in her speech to the conference.
The consultation on the changes to legal advice, which included plans to reduce the size of misconduct panels, ran until the end of August.
The Police Federation has also argued against the removal of lawyers from gross misconduct proceedings.