Regulatory & Professional Offence Solicitors
Bexleyheath, Blackheath & Petts Wood
If you are a professional faced with an investigation by your regulator we can assist you with anything from registration issues to allegations of serious misconduct.
It may be that there is a misunderstanding or a malicious complaint without any foundation which can be challenged at an early stage so that a hearing does not become necessary. Alternatively there may be serious allegations of misconduct, lack of competence, criminal behaviour or a serious ill health issue, which leads to a fitness to practise is called in to question.
Regulatory bodies include:-
- General Medical Council
- Nursing & Midwifery Council
- General Dental Council
- Solicitors Disciplinary Council
- Bar Standards Board
- General Pharmaceutical Council
- General Osteopathic Council
- Architects Registration Board
- The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
- Health & Care Professional Council (HCPC) who regulate:
- Arts therapists
- Biomedical scientists
- Chiropodists / podiatrists
- Clinical scientists
- Hearing aid dispensers
- Occupational therapists
- Operating department practitioners
- Practitioner psychologists
- Prosthetists / orthotists
- Social workers in England
- Speech and language therapists
What is fitness to practise?
This means that a professional has the skills, knowledge and character to practise their profession safely and effectively. The role of the regulator is to set standards for the professionals that they regulate in relation to their education and training, professional skills, performance and ethics. If these standards are not met they can take action to protect the public.
What types of issues are likely to lead to a fitness to practise hearing?
Regulators are likely to take action in the following types of circumstances:-
- where there are allegations of dishonesty, fraud or abuse of trust
- where a vulnerable person has been exploited
- where the professional has health problems which they have not dealt with and which may affect the safety of the public that they come into contact with, through their regulated work
- if the professional has tried to hide their mistakes or tried to block the investigation
- where the professional has carried out reckless or deliberately harmful acts
- where the professional has seriously or persistently failed to meet standards set by the regulator
- where the profession is involved in sexual misconduct or indecency (including any involvement with child pornography)
- where there has been substance or alcohol abuse or misuse
- Where there hasbeen violent or threatening behaviour or other behaviour which is likely to bring the profession in to disrepute
How do Panels reach a decision?
Procedures vary from profession to profession, but where there is a hearing before a panel the procedure can be lengthy and complicated but most of all very stressful in light of the fact that your future within your given profession hangs in the balance. As a professional, you have a right to be accompanied by a lawyer.
The regulator will first consider whether the matter can be dealt with informally by either dismissing the case where it is unfounded or by making a decision not to proceed to a hearing in cases where the nature or seriousness of the allegation are minor and do not pose a risk to the public.
If a hearing becomes necessary, panel members must establish whether the facts are true on the balance of probabilities. It is therefore important that your case is properly presented to the panel. If your evidence is not properly documented or relayed to the panel, or if the opposing evidence is not properly challenged then your case could be seriously prejudiced. This is particularly important where panel members do not have a background in the regulated profession. For example, in the case of the Nursing and Midwifery Council, panel members are no always medically qualified.
If the facts are found to be true, then panel members use their judgement to decide what sanctions to impose, depending upon the degree of public protection they believe to be appropriate. It is therefore important for you to provide a persuasive case to ensure that the sanction is kept to a minimum or to avoid the ultimate sanction of being prevented from continuing to work in your chosen career.
What sanctions can Regulators impose?
Even if there is a finding that a professional’s fitness to practise is impaired the panel can decide not to take any action if, for example the professional has taken corrective action and fully understand the implications of their actions or failure to act.
The regulator can ask the professional to attend mediation, to give undertakings or they can caution, suspend, impose conditions of practise or strike the professional off the register.