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Misconduct reforms could turn hearings into 'kangaroo courts'

A row has broken out over plans by Chiefs to speed up misconduct proceedings.

The Police Federation has challenged Chiefs over proposals to speed up misconduct investigations and boot out officers guilty of serious offences.

Criticism followed the National Police Chiefs’ Council unveiling plans to enable submissions to be made to misconduct panel hearings and to take cases to judicial review where an officer has been allowed to keep their job.

Changes would be made to College of Policing guidance to create the new powers.

But the plans, aimed at rebuilding trust with the public, were challenged by the Fed with a warning that trust among officers would be undermined if proceedings were turned into “kangaroo courts”.

NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt said the changes were needed to speed up hearings so forces could root out people who had committed serious breaches of standards.

He told the NPCC APCC Summit: “Swiftly dealing with police officers or staff members that need to be removed from the service is a demonstration of our values."

He also made clear during a briefing that the Police Federation had been told about the proposals – and signalled Chiefs were determined to press on with the reforms.

But the Fed has raised “grave concerns” over the fairness of the proposals, adding it would be wrong for forces to influence dismissals and hamstring panels.

Performance Lead Phill Matthews, commented: “We agree it is vital the Service is as open and transparent about misconduct processes as possible, but what is being suggested risks undermining that which is deeply concerning. What is being proposed risks turning misconduct proceedings into kangaroo courts.

“Allowing chief constables to write to Legally Qualified Chairs of independent panels before they have heard evidence from all parties involved could unduly influence the outcome of a hearing and is akin to the Queen writing to crown court judges ahead of trials with her view of the outcome without hearing the evidence or trial.”

He added there was a danger that hearings could become pre-determined – and there was anger that after years of warning forces to deal with cases faster, Chiefs instead were opting for short-cuts.

Mr Matthews said: “Permitting chiefs constables to chair more accelerated hearings, or make submissions, is far from open and transparent justice and could lead to a return to the dark days where officers were dismissed in the eyes of those present even before any evidence was considered."

He added: “We are pleased to see the NPCC finally recognises the need to speed up disciplinary processes, which we have been pressing hard for this as part of our Time Limits campaign for the last two years, but chiefs have consistently refused to back this.”

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