Purging Police Misconduct: Proposals to Strengthen Accountability and Streamline Officer Dismissals.

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28 September, 2023

Craig MacKenzie

A feature of many miscarriages of justice cases is the malign influence of dishonest police officers who have managed to stay in post despite many years of red flags having been raised in some cases.

Recent tragic cases, such as the murder of Sarah Everard, have brought this issue to the forefront of policing. Now, the government has stated that it will act urgently to remove unsuitable officers from their jobs.

The law will be changed to ensure all officers must be appropriately vetted during their service and to enable officers who fail a re-vetting test whilst in post to be sacked.

Under the new system, a finding of gross misconduct will automatically result in a police officer's dismissal, unless exceptional circumstances apply, speeding up the removal of officers not fit to serve.

Chief constables (or other senior officers) will also be given greater responsibilities to decide whether officers should be sacked, increasing their accountability for their forces, and will now chair independent misconduct panels. An independent lawyer will continue to sit on the panel, providing independent advice and helping to maintain rigour, but in a supporting legally qualified person (LQP) position. The outcome will be determined by a majority panel decision, as it is now, and hearings will continue to be held in public to maintain transparency.

Police chiefs will also be given a right to challenge decisions and there will be a presumption for former officers and special constables' cases to be heard under fast-track procedures chaired by senior officers, cutting bureaucracy and saving taxpayers' money, while making sure those failing to uphold standards are removed more swiftly.

Other measures announced this week include:

  • Working with the sector to create a list of criminal offences which would automatically amount to gross misconduct upon conviction.
  • Streamlining of the performance system to ensure it's effective at removing officers who demonstrate a serious inability or failure to perform their duties.
  • Issuing new guidance to all forces to support the effective discharge of under-performing probationary officers using existing powers.
  • Improving data collection on performance and dismissals across all forces, including data on protected characteristics; and
  • Speeding up the system by allowing chief constables to delegate their responsibilities to other senior officers.

In addition to these measures to tackle corrupt police officers, the Home Office is also launching a consultation on a new national framework for how police powers - including stop and search and use of force - are scrutinised at a local level. This delivers on a commitment made by government in its response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report.

The Community Scrutiny Framework aims to assist PCCs and police forces to establish and maintain effective community scrutiny panels in their local area and ensure a consistent approach nationally.

Community scrutiny panels allow members of the community to review individual police interactions with the public and provide observations and feedback via local police and crime commissioners and the police. This can support police officers to use their powers more confidently with the backing of their communities and aid public understanding of how and why police powers are used.

How can Forbes Solicitors help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact Craig MacKenzie, Partner & Head of the High-Profile & Private Crime Division.

Our private criminal defence solicitors are industry-leading and committed to delivering excellence. We offer a 'cutting edge, best in class service' and excel in representing professionals and prominent individuals.

Why choose Forbes Solicitors private criminal defence team?

We are a large, national, multi-disciplinary firm representing clients for over 200 years in one form or another. We are ranked in the Top Tier of firms in the United Kingdom by the Legal 500 and Band 1 (highest) by Chambers and Partners.

Our team of private criminal defence solicitors act in thousands of cases every year, often in the most serious and most high-profile cases before the Courts. The firm has significant resources and uses the latest technology to prepare cases. Our private criminal defence team will treat you and your case with integrity, sensitivity, and a 'laser focus' towards obtaining a successful outcome for you from the moment of instruction.

For more information contact Craig MacKenzie in our Crime department via email or phone on 01772 220 022. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Crime department here

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