New measures laid in Parliament today (16 April 2024) will make it easier for police chiefs to sack rogue officers during misconduct hearings.

Police chief constables will be given the responsibility of chairing the hearings which decide on the removal of officers found guilty of police misconduct.   

By giving these powers to chief constables, police leaders will be held increasingly accountable for their own officers and be able to influence any dismissal decisions impacting their own force.  

Policing Minister Chris Philp said:

Officers unfit to serve must be rooted out at the earliest opportunity and these changes will ensure chief constables are given greater control over this process.

The public need greater confidence that the officers who serve their communities are dedicated to keeping them safe.

We have already made progress in improving the police dismissals process, which includes the police carrying out the largest-ever integrity screening exercise of their workforce and through strengthened vetting, which will go further in booting out corrupt officers.

In some circumstances, such as where misconduct allegations are more minor, chiefs will be able to delegate their role on the panel to a senior police staff member to ensure best possible use of public and policing resources.  

Under the new measures, police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will also have greater responsibility for scrutinising the decisions made by dismissals panels. Chiefs, or in some cases senior police officers, will need to provide justifications for decisions where requested. For example, where it has been decided that a misconduct hearing should be held in private.  

The democratically elected commissioners will be tasked with holding those making dismissals decisions to account. PCCs will choose independent members to form the rest of the panel and sit alongside the chair and supportive legal advisors. This will ensure that any conflicts of interest are avoided to uphold the fairness of any hearings. 

Previously these panels were chaired by independent lawyers known as legally qualified chairs. Legal advisors will remain an important part of hearings but will now be known as a ‘legally qualified person’ who can provide independent legal advice in a more supportive role. The outcome of the hearings will still be determined by a majority panel decision, and hearings will continue to be held in public to maintain transparency and fairness. 

These changes, which will come into force on 7 May 2024, follow a comprehensive review into police dismissals following the conviction of David Carrick, a serving police officer, for numerous sexual offences.  

In February, the government set out further changes to the police disciplinary system which will mean that any officer charged with an indictable offence will be automatically suspended from duty until an outcome is reached, alongside legislation that will make it easier to sack officers who fail to hold basic vetting when re-checked, as well as anyone found guilty of gross misconduct.

The Home Office has also committed to providing funding to develop an automated and continuous integrity screening system of the police workforce to ensure that officers are continuously vetted throughout their career.

Source: Home Office and The Rt Hon Chris Philp MP

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