As the ‘plebgate’ story progresses, many of the recent controversies have surrounded whether officers should have faced police misconduct proceedings after they had given an allegedly misleading account of their meeting with Andrew Mitchell .
To outline what had happened, following a suggestion that Mr. Mitchell had referred to officers as ‘plebs’ following a dispute on Downing Street, he had agreed to meet with police representatives to set the record straight.
Following the meeting, officers had given an account of what Mr. Mitchell had said during the meeting which, so the implication is, was different to what had actually been said according to a recording made of the conversation.
A complaint had been made about this and it concluded by a police Professional Standards Department following an investigation that this did not amount to misconduct and that there was no case to answer in terms of disciplinary action.
The framework against which these decisions are made is The Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008 which set out how disciplinary matters are addressed and applies to police officers in England & Wales.
Police officers are held to a set of ten standards published in the Regulations, they indicate how officers are expected to act and behave.
One of the most important standards is that ‘police officers are honest, act with integrity and do not compromise or abuse their position‘.
When misconduct proceedings are proposed, it is because an officer is alleged to have fallen short of one of the standards expected of them.
If it has been decided that there is a breach of the standards, it then has to be decided whether the breach constitutes ‘misconduct’ or ‘gross misconduct’.
‘Misconduct’ is a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour whilst ‘gross misconduct’ means a breach of the Standards so serious that dismissal would be justified.
IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass had suggested that rather than concluding there was no case to answer in respect to the officers’ actions, she thought rather the outcome ought to have been a finding of gross misconduct for which the officers had to answer.
To address misconduct where proven, officers can be offered management advice, a written warning, a ‘final’ written warning that could lead to dismissal and in the most serious cases, dismissal.
Officers have a right to appeal decisions made should they feel they have the grounds to do so.
As the 116 page Home Office guidance suggests, the Regulations are not the easiest to digest and so the above summary is only really a starting point to understanding how the process is intended to work.
I’m keeping an eye on the story and will look at blogging again when able to try and clarify how police misconduct regulations should work in the context of the story.