Legally Qualified Chairs – a rewarding, challenging and intellectually stimulating appointment
As I approach the fourth anniversary of my appointment as a Legally Qualified Chair in the Eastern Region, I can honestly say that I have found the experience of chairing police misconduct hearings rewarding, challenging and intellectually stimulating. The over-arching purpose of misconduct proceedings is the maintenance of public confidence in the police service by ensuring that all police officers measure up to the Standards of Professional Behaviour and the Code of Ethics. The vast majority of police officers do measure up to these Standards and the Code; but, for those who do not, formal disciplinary proceedings may be necessary. Acting as an LQC, therefore, carries with it a very public responsibility.
An LQC chairs hearings concerning the most serious allegations, where officers are at risk of dismissal. Both sides at the hearings are likely to be legally represented. The LQC is assisted by an Independent Member and a senior officer and, together, they make up the panel. The Independent Member is likely to bring a wealth of experience from service in the public or private sector; while the senior officer will bring the knowledge and experience of day to day policing. The panel exercises a quasi-judicial function and to enable it to come to a proper decision, it falls to the LQC to advise the other panellists on the law and make rulings where there have been arguments on the law and procedure. Above all, it is the responsibility of the LQC to ensure hearings are conducted fairly, openly and transparently. Most hearings are conducted in public and often there is media interest in them.
When the role of the LQC was introduced in 2016, it was “grafted” onto the existing regulatory process. The Home Office is about to amend that process significantly. In doing so, it is anticipated that it will recognise the importance of LQCs by, not only giving them greatly increased case management powers, but also by extending their “jurisdiction” to cover misconduct hearings for officers of all ranks – in other words, up to and including Chief Constables. As such, in my opinion, from 2020 the work of LQCs can only become more rewarding, more challenging and more intellectually stimulating.