Thames Valley Police has revealed that two upcoming misconduct hearings will take place in private.
The first, due to take place on 22-24 June, involves an unnamed former officer who’s alleged to have used racially offensive language in front of colleagues during a training exercise.
It’s alleged the officer’s behavior breached professional standards and would amount to gross misconduct for which dismissal would be justified if the officer was still serving.
No details on why the public and press are being excluded have been provided.
A second hearing due to take place from 2-5 August does not state the name of the officer or the allegations.
A post on the force’s website said chair Ms Nicola Talbot-Hadley had considered representations from both parties at a pre-hearing and her initial position was it was “appropriate” to withhold the identification of the officer in question and to hold the hearing in private.
The chair said she had considered a variety of factors, set out in Home Office Guidance (HOG).
They include the need for transparency, the public interest, the vulnerability, physical and mental health of witnesses, complainants or the officer, the involvement and naming of any children, factors relating to sensitive police operations or crime prevention of detection, ongoing criminal proceedings, and any relevant national security issues.
The chair said her decision not to hold the hearing in public was based on a careful balancing exercise involving public interest, transparency and scrutiny of police misconduct “versus the individual welfare of those involved concerned in the hearing and the ability of a misconduct panel to effectively evaluate all of the evidence”.
In both cases, the media were asked to make representations if they wished to challenge the proposed exclusions.
Since 2014 police misconduct cases have been heard in public, except where there are special reasons for all or part of a hearing to be in private.
Rules and Procedures are set out in Home Office Guidance (HOG) and The Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020.
If gross misconduct has been found proved, the panel can dismiss the officer, impose a final written warning or an ordinary written warning, direct that the officer must receive management advice, or take no further action.
If only misconduct is proved, there is no power of dismissal, unless the officer is in breach of an earlier final written warning.