Urging Transparancy at Cambridgeshire Police Misconduct Hearings via Police and Crime Panel


Friday, November 4th, 2016. 2:19am

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner at the Police and Crime Panel

I have submitted the following for the Public Questions / Statements agenda item of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel meeting on the 9th of November 2016:

I would like to suggest the panel looks into the arrangements surrounding police misconduct hearings.

The notice for the misconduct hearing which started on the 31st of October 2016 contained no information about how to apply to attend the hearing, or “details of exclusions of attendance condition”s. The force’s published information* states that such information will be included on all notices. Without such information being included on the notice I cannot see how the hearing can have been considered to have been held in public. I publicly raised my concerns** about the omission from the notice with the police force and Police and Crime Commissioner in good time for it to be corrected but I received no response and no action was taken.

Many of the notices of hearings published to-date have not detailed the conduct that was the subject matter of the case. Allegations have been described in vague terms for example merely: “breached professional standards“*** without any further details given.

Cambridgeshire police have adopted a practice of removing notices of hearings from their website shortly after they have been published.

Notices of hearings are published on a page deep on the force website and are not routinely included in the force “news” listings, or publicised on social media.

The published material does not give me confidence that notices of hearings relating to officers from other forces routinely working in Cambridgeshire as part of collaboration arrangements would be publicised in Cambridgeshire.

The misconduct hearing outcomes reports are vague, anonomised, and appear inconsistent with the statistics published on the College of Policing’s “Disapproved Register”. ****

The force, under the Police and Crime Commissioner, appear to have adopted a policy of minimal openness and transparency. The restrictions on public access and reporting at hearings appear massively excessive.

Names of hearing chairs are not publicised, and are not included on notices of hearings, this means people can’t identify which chairs are failing to run accessible, public hearings, and can’t lobby the Police and Crime Commissioner to remove them from the Commissioners’ list of nominated chairs.

I am disappointed that the public hearing process is not yet being extended to cover those police complaints which it would be appropriate to deal with via such a process.

I think public hearings, if embraced, have the potential to improve confidence in policing. Current practice in Cambridgeshire in my opinion makes the police look secretive and unwilling to operate a policy which is in line with the spirit of the law.

I have observed the Police and Crime Panel often discuss matters without focusing and concluding their discussion with clear recommendations to the Police and Crime Commissioner. In relation to this matter, following consideration, the Police and Crime Panel could for example recommend the Police and Crime Commissioner:

  1. Reviews the arrangements for misconduct hearings which have taken place to-date and removes those chairs who have not made suitably transparent or legally compliant arrangements from the list of potential future chairs (or writes to them with a warning).
  2. Makes clear to panel chairs the intent of the law, and sets out a clear expectation the hearings will be run as openly and transparently; and reminds chairs to include information on public attendance in notices of hearings.
  3. Removes the onerous requirements for pre-registration, and photo-ID for attendees.
  4. Sets clear, consistent, rules permitting live text reporting from hearings, and allowing use of electronic devices including mobile phones in a non-disruptive manner.
  5. Encourages reporting at hearings including by use use of video and sound recording and photography; to bring proceedings to a wider audience and improve the quality of reporting and also encourages the police, and Police and Crime Commissioner’s communications staff to report, via official channels, on hearings.
  6. Requires chairs to include details of the alleged misconduct in hearing notices, and sets out the minimum requirements of a hearing notice so any key elements are not omitted from future notices. The name of the panel chair should be a required element of the hearing notice.
  7. Stops the practice of removing material relating to misconduct hearings from the force website other than in exceptional circumstances (such as an error) when the removal should be noted and explained.
  8. Sets out where notices of misconduct hearings should be published and publicised, including requiring reference to each notice in a dedicated, new, news item on the force website and in posts on relevant social media.
  9. Ensures the effectiveness of arrangements for publishing notices of misconduct hearings which relate to officers with roles in units where there is significant routine collaboration across forces.
  10. Reviews the local publication of misconduct outcomes and its relationship with the related material published by the College of Policing, and ensures it is full, informative, and consistent.
  11. Sets out plans to extend the use of public hearings to deal with appropriate police complaints.

* https://www.cambs-police.co.uk/about/profStandards/misconductHearings.asp – Force webpage on misconduct hearings.

** https://twitter.com/RTaylorUK/status/789154177662480384

*** https://twitter.com/RTaylorUK/status/734784951841869824

**** https://twitter.com/RTaylorUK/status/768869139981201408

Richard Taylor
[Full address]
Cambridge

http://www.rtaylor.co.uk

7 comments/updates on “Urging Transparancy at Cambridgeshire Police Misconduct Hearings via Police and Crime Panel

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    See also:

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have received a response which I am publishing in full below.

    The Police and Crime Commissioner has told me and the Police and Crime Panel there have been no pre-registration or identification requirements imposed at any hearings to-date. The Commissioner told the panel:

    Not one LQC [misconduct hearing chair] has yet seen fit to impose conditions on public attendance in any way, be it pre-registration, total numbers, searches etc. The public in all of those cases have been free to come and go as they please, unhindered and unidentified.

    This is false. The conditions for the hearing in relation to DS1309 Matthew Swash on the 23rd and 24th of August 2016 for example stated:

    Conditions for the hearing

    • The Hearing will be held in public.
    • A maximum of 25 people will be welcome to attend the hearing.
    • All those wishing to attend must pre-register their intention to attend.
    • The names and addresses of those who are attending must be given with supporting photographic identification on the day.
    • Bags and people may be searched as a condition of entry.
    • No recording equipment either audio or visual are permitted either inside police premises or the hearing.

    See the full notice.

    The hearing reportedly took place. If the Police and Crime Commissioner was taking the slightest casual interest in the misconduct hearings taking place in the force area he would surely have noticed the imposition of these conditions.

    The response from the Police and Crime Commissioner also says the force website has been updated with clearer information about misconduct hearings, this has not happened. The relevant text is the same now as it was in June.

    I have pointed to the omission of information about attendance at hearings from notices:

    The Police and Crime Commissioner has said the force: “has no such responsibility for proclaiming that such conditions have not been set”, however the force’s webpage on misconduct hearings states, in relation to notices of hearings: “The notice provides information about the hearing including how to apply to attend”

    The response contains a lot of irrelevant padding which doesn’t directly relate to the matters I raised. It starts by stating:

    The matters raised are ones that are either operational policing matters

    I disagree with the Police and Crime panel on this. I expressed concerns about current policies and made suggestions for improving them. I proposed an subject on which the Police and Crime Panel could scrutinise the work of the Police and Crime Commissioner and suggested recommendations they might make following such work.

    The response from the Police and Crime Commissioner is written evasively but suggests all notices of hearings have complied with a requirement to publish “the conduct that is the subject matter of the case and how that conduct is alleged to amount to misconduct”. That suggests the Police and Crime Commissioner thinks, for example: “That on or around 30 August 2013 DS Swash is alleged to have breached professional standards”, amounts to publishing “the conduct”*. I disagree, I don’t think it does, I think such statements are vague and vacuous.

    My suggestions that the names of misconduct panel chairs ought be published; and that public hearings should be used in a wider range of cases have not been addressed.

    Full Response

    The matters raised are ones that are either operational policing matters or relate to independent Legally Qualified Chairs (LQC). Operational policing matters are ones for which the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary is responsible for and therefore the Panel cannot comment on these. It is worth noting that the Commissioner or the Chief Constable must not fetter the independence of the LQC.

    However, we have approached the Commissioner with your suggested recommendations and the Commissioner, having sought information from the Chief Constable’s officers, has responded as follows covering both the operational matters and those relating to LQCs.

    The Commissioner has assured the Panel that both he and the Chief Constable are clear of the need for transparency, consistency, integrity and professionalism in respect of all areas of policing. This includes the manner in which police officers and staff misconduct is handled, so that the public can be confident that such matters are dealt with appropriately in line with legislation and guidance.

    Public complaints against police officers are dealt in accordance with the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2012. If the final determination is that the officer should face a misconduct hearing then in order to fully comply with the law these Regulations are engaged. Officers subject to public complaints who have a case to answer for gross misconduct will be (and have been) required to appear before a public misconduct hearing.

    The Commissioner is responsible for appointing LQCs to chair hearings and thereafter for maintaining and administering a list of the LQCs. To achieve this in the most efficient manner and maintain independence the Eastern Region Police and Crime Commissioners have created an arm’s length regional process to achieve this. The Commissioner does not appoint LQCs for individual hearings; this is the responsibility of the Constabulary’s Professional Standards Department (PSD).

    The practice concerning arrangements and facilitation of public misconduct hearings chaired by a LQC is predicated on a number of legislative regulations and guidance. Namely, these are:

    • The Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012
    • The Police (Conduct) (Amendment) Regulations 2015
    • Home Office Guidance on Police Officer Misconduct – specifically Annex G covering public hearings.

    At the point a LQC is appointed to an individual case, the manner in which the proceedings are conducted is a matter entirely for the LQC. The Constabulary is clearly an interested party (along with many other stakeholders) and has the opportunity to make representations regarding conditions which may or may not be set by the LQC. The final public notice of a misconduct hearing will always have been through a process whereby representations can be made by those interested parties. The general public are not an interested party in terms of the legislation and therefore not involved in the process leading up to the final notice being made public.

    The Constabulary is required to publicise forthcoming hearings if directed to do so by the LQC. The information in the public notice is confined to the following:

    • the name of the officer concerned;
    • the date of the hearing;
    • the time of the hearing;
    • the place at which the hearing will take place; and
    • the conduct that is the subject matter of the case and how that conduct is alleged to amount to misconduct or gross misconduct as the case may be.

    All Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire public notices relating to misconduct hearings comply with this requirement. The Constabulary, under the direction of the LQC, also has a requirement to publicise any positive decision regarding preconditions that have been set, for example, pre-registration for public attendance, restrictions on audience numbers. It has no such responsibility for proclaiming that such conditions have not been set, i.e. if there are no conditions then the LQC is not obliged to positively state these.

    A public notice has to be given at least five working days before the start date of the hearing. This direction is adhered to in all cases. Notices are taken down after the hearing has concluded. Hearings relating to Cambridgeshire Constabulary officers are advertised on the Constabulary’s website, in the same way that Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary do.

    The conditions imposed on attendance at a hearing in order to facilitate the proper conduct of proceedings is clearly given in statutory guidance. It is for the LQC to prohibit the taking of photographs and the use of film or sound recording equipment during the hearing, exceptfor official use. The use of live, text-based communications for the purposes of simultaneous reporting of proceedings may be permitted if the LQC chairing the proceedings is satisfied that it does not interfere with the orderly conduct of proceedings. It is also at the LQCs discretion to direct proceedings be streamed to another public location if appropriate.

    The Constabulary provides details of a dismissed officer to the College of Policing in order for a record to bemade on the Disapproved Register. Dismissal isjust one way in which an officer can find themselves on the Disapproved Register; other methods include resigning or retiring whilst under investigation. The information sent to the College of Policing is regularly reviewed for accuracy by PSD.

    As a result of this question being asked, the Constabulary have reviewed the information about misconduct hearings which appears upon their website. The Constabulary have identified that some of the information about public attendance was ambiguous and did create an impression that conditions of pre-registration and the production of identification documents will always be a condition of entry imposed by LQCs. The Constabulary’s website now sets out conditions that could be applied should the LQC decide these are appropriate in the circumstances.

    It is worth noting that to date, PSD have on behalf of the LQCs, arranged a number of misconduct hearings for the Constabulary, Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary. Not one LQC has yet seen fit to impose conditions on public attendance in any way, be it pre-registration, total numbers, searches etc. The public in all of those cases have been free to come and go as they please, unhindered and unidentified.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    On the 23rd of November Cambridgeshire Police made a minor and inconsequential change to their webpage on misconduct hearings:

    They changed the wording before the list of possible conditions from:

    It is anticipated that the following conditions will always apply.

    to

    In the event that the chair of the hearing sets conditions for public attendance the below MAY apply:

    The page still promises that each hearing notice will include: “information about the hearing including how to apply to attend”; which suggests that it will be necessary to apply to attend hearings. The omission of the promised information from a notice was the key matter I raised with the Police and Crime Commissioner and Police and Crime Panel as noted in the above article.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    The force have this evening added the following to their webpage on Misconduct hearings:

    To register your intention to attend please email publichearings@Bedfordshire.pnn.police.uk

    This follows a tweet earlier in the day from the vice-chair of Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel saying, apparently in relation to a currently advertised hearing:

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