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Conduct lead defends 'scrupulously fair' changes to officer hearings

Changes to misconduct proceedings won’t lead to kangaroo courts, a chief has said.

The National Police Chiefs Council’s lead for standards defended reforms to the disciplinary hearings system aimed at shortening the time taken to remove officers from forces because of serious conduct failings.

The Police Federation had described the reforms as creating a "kangeroo court" in which an officer could be judged before a hearing.

Nottinghamshire Chief Constable Craig Guildford, the national lead for standards, argued officers would be treated fairly and pledged to meet with Fed leaders to reassure them.

The changes unveiled last week by the NPCC included accelerating misconduct hearings and giving chiefs the right to make written submissions to panels on specific cases. And chiefs will also be allowed to seek judicial reviews where an officer that "undermines culture" has been able to remain with a force.

But CC Guildford told Police Oracle the reforms would not undermine the rights of officers facing complaints.

He said: “I’m thinking about the 99% of brilliant officers who are being let down by that 1% who do outrageous things. I’d hate people to think that the system is anything other than scrupulously fair.”

But the Police Federation had criticised the reforms, arguing chiefs could unduly influence the outcome of a hearing by writing to a panel chair or go into a hearing with a pre-determined outcome in mind.

Dyfed Powys Police Federation secretary Roger Webb said he had “deep reservations” about the fairness of future misconduct hearings.

The Fed’s lead for conduct and performance, Phill Matthews described the reforms as creating a “kangaroo court”.

Mr Guildford responded: “There is no way there is ever going to be a system like that. That’s not right, that’s not fair and that’s not the system we want.”

He added: “I am never going to let anything even remotely like that happen.”

He defended the changes as a way of supporting officers who have done nothing wrong and repairing some of the damage done by the recent horrific cases.

The aim is to bring forward particularly serious cases – such as abuse of position for sexual purposes – sooner so that officers who represent a serious threat to the public and colleagues can be removed and placed on the barred list.

CC Guildford said: “Part of what Martin [Hewitt, NPCC Chair] said is that in speeding up the process it will exonerate the innocent and get the guilty out of the organisation speedily.”  

He added: “The regulatory system is there to safeguard the profession and the public – but it has to be fair to each and every officer.”

The Federation argues that independent misconduct panels with officers and members of the public should not need to rely on guidance from a chief constable.

CC Guildford said the Fed had been in discussion with the NPCC for months over the proposals and the changes, which are being worked through with the College of Policing, are already in regulations.

He said the NPCC had a good relationship with Mr Matthews who is also a Nottinghamshire officer and has offered to meet to discuss the issues raised by the Fed.

“I speak to him regularly,” he said. “There are sensitivities. It’s important to offer reassurance just because we’re making sure that what we want to do is all within proportionality.”

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