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BTP considers move from conduct regulations to employment law

British Transport Police is considering moving towards employment law to address officer misconduct rather than being dealt with under Police Regulations.

The BTP Federation has warned a move towards employment law in order for the force to have more authority over who is dismissed in the wake of the Wayne Couzens case would be a mistake.

The move is being considered by the British Transport Police Authority and the force, who are currently seeking legal advice. 

Writing in his monthly blog, BTP Federation chair Nigel Goodband said: “Any proposal to deal with allegations of misconduct under employment law rather than police conduct regulations suggest to us that BTP want to be the force that can hire and fire whenever it suits them, without following a fair and balanced process. Where is the parity in this proposal compared to other police officers?”

Mr Goodband told Police Oracle: “I think it's the impact of the tragic murder of Sarah. The NPCC have obviously instructed each force to look at all sexual type allegations that are currently in each force, where officers are accused what are forces doing with those accused officers?" 

Last month the force launched a legal challenge against an independent chair’s decision to allow an officer who accosted a female jogger in the park to keep his job. 

"I think as a result of that they've asked the question, are these the right regulations to rid the organisation of these types of people?" Mr Goodband said.

He questioned whether the independent chairs who are conducting misconduct hearings understand the organisational threshold for breaches of standard professional behaviour.

“And the suggestion is, well, no, they don't, because they're not part of the organisation."

But Mr Goodband does not think a move to employment law is the solution. 

“I think British Transport Police aren't really thinking this out properly, because if they move towards more employment law and away from police regulations, you'll be moving those police officers more towards employment rights and industrial rights.”

He said that would bring a “new ballgame altogether because of the employment rights would be interrupted and you could create a problem of having trade union status.

“Do we want industrial rights? Do we want the power to strike? You've got to be careful what you ask for.”

He also pointed out officers are entitled to a legal representative in the misconduct process.

“You wouldn't want if it's a job threatening incident, to have a police officer, or even a trade union rep, giving you advice. You could find out that you'd lose your job.

“I just think that would create a retention issue for BTP, I think it would be a major concern for our police officers, who would yet again, be very demoralised in that they're being treated totally different from any other police officer in the country.”

The Federation has committed to a legal challenge if the move goes ahead, and says reform within the current system could be an alternative.

“I think they could be better engagement with police forces and legally qualified chairs,” said Mr Goodband.

A misconduct case can sometimes be so serious, clear cut and with enough public interest that it is fast tracked in front of the chief constable who acts as the legally qualified chair.

“We're saying to the chief constable we would prefer that as a route, rather than moving away from police regulations, because police officer don’t want these people working with them and it is a minority of people. It's not the majority of police officers.

"And, sadly, because of the actions of one man, we are seeing a reaction, rightly so, that we reflect on how misconduct is dealt with. But people are missing the point. The actions of these individuals are criminal, and they should be dealt with by the criminal courts.”

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