The College of Policing’s new guidance on outcomes for police misconduct

24 August 2022

Since 2017 the College of Policing has published guidance on the outcomes in cases of police misconduct. That guidance is issued pursuant to section 87 of the Police Act 1996. It applies to all police forces maintained by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The guidance itself makes it clear that “the guidance does not override the discretion of the person(s) conducting the meeting or hearing, whose function is to determine the appropriate outcome. Each case will depend on its particular facts and circumstances. Guidance cannot and should not prescribe the outcome suitable for every case”. However, the higher courts have made it clear that the guidance should ordinarily be followed. In R(on the application of the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester) v Police Misconduct Panel, the High Court criticised a panel which had referred to the guidance but where there was ‘nothing in the panel’s reasoning to show that it had, either expressly or in substance, applied that approach’.

The College of Policing has just updated the guidance. Certain aspects of the update are of particular importance:

  • The guidance now includes a new section on violence against women and girls, noting that the sanctions in such circumstances are likely to be severe. The College of Policing’s CEO explained “Officers who commit violence towards women and girls should expect to be sacked and barred from re-joining the police. There is no place in policing for anyone who behaves in a way that damages the public’s trust in us to keep them safe”. The increasingly tough approach in such circumstances is reflected throughout the guidance. For instance, in the section on bullying the guidance now states, “If the matter involves sexual harassment, consider whether the behaviour has been driven by misogyny, which will increase the assessed seriousness”.
  • Other areas have also been made more robust. For instance, the guidance now emphasises that an officer will be expected to demonstrate ‘scrupulous professionalism’ if they assume responsibility toward a person in a specific role, for example, as a family liaison officer, personal protection officer or cadet leader.

In other respects the new guidance is consistent with that which it replaces. It continues to recommend a structured approach to the assessment of seriousness (with consideration of both culpability and harm) and continues to be clear that operational dishonesty will usually merit dismissal.

Panels and chief officers will need to ensure that the new guidance is closely considered when making decisions as to the outcome in cases of misconduct. It is likely that the increased rigour of the guidance in respect of violence against women and girls, and the emphasis on the obligations on officers when they assume responsibility toward others, will lead to a greater number of dismissals.


Authors

Robert Cohen

Call 2009

Related areas

Police Law

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