In R (Rose) v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police  EWHC 875 (Admin), a businessman successfully challenged a decision not to refer his complaint to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) under the mandatory referral criteria. The High Court concluded that the chief constable had failed to review the conduct alleged and consider whether, if substantiated, it would constitute serious corruption as defined in the (then) Independent Complaints Commission (IPCC) Statutory Guidance on the handling of complaints. Instead, he had performed an assessment of the merits which had rendered the decision not to refer the complaint unlawful. The case makes clear that complaints engaging the mandatory criteria, especially that of “serious corruption”, must be referred to the IOPC.
The question of how misconduct proceedings should address allegations of discrimination or harassment has now been the subject of a handful of High Court decisions. What falls from them is the importance of the misconduct allegations setting out the specific heads of discriminatory behaviour said to have been committed, whether such conduct is deliberate or accidental, and the effect of such behaviour. This blog post reviews those cases and their relevance to how future misconduct proceedings are presented, defended and determined.
A group of police officers exchange off-duty, sexist, degrading, racist, antisemitic, homophobic and disability-mocking WhatsApp group chat messages, as well posting crime scene photographs of current investigations. No crime was committed. That’s a private matter, isn’t it? No. It isn’t. So held the Second Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session in BC v Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland Livingstone  CSIH 61;  SLT 1021 (Lord Justice Clerk (Lady Dorrian), & Lords Menzies and Malcolm).
If a police officer facing professional disciplinary proceedings disputes the misconduct allegations and continues to do so even after a finding of gross misconduct, can the misconduct hearing conclude that that the officer lacks insight and remorse – and impose a higher disciplinary sanction? The case of General Medical Council v Awan  EWHC 1553 (Admin) from the medical regulatory tribunals suggest that such a conclusion should not be reached automatically, although a continued denial of the findings may well be a relevant consideration.
Whilst professional disciplinary proceedings brought by the General Medical Council (‘the GMC’) against doctors are based on a different regulatory regime, the general principles underpinning those proceedings are equally applicable to police misconduct hearings.
The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police has successfully challenged a misconduct hearing panel’s decision to impose a Final Written Warning (FWW), after an officer made racist remarks about a fellow officer: R (Chief Constable of West Midlands Police) v Panel Chair, Police Misconduct Panel  EWHC 1400 (Admin). The decision confirms that the High Court will be prepared to intervene where panels fail to follow the College of Policing’s Guidance on Outcomes, and that misconduct involving discrimination will be treated especially seriously.