NMA Calls for Police Disciplinary Hearings to be Held in Public

The News Media Association has called for new legislation to ensure that police disciplinary and appeal hearings are held in public after the government admitted that the public perception of police integrity “has suffered” in the wake of incidents like Plebgate.

Responding to a Home Office consultation on changes to the police disciplinary system, the NMA said legislation should be introduced to ensure that police misconduct hearings, special case hearings and police appeals tribunals are held in public without exception.

Santha Rasaiah, NMA legal, policy and regulatory affairs director, said: “Policing in a democracy requires public confidence in police adherence to the law and police compliance with the statutory standards of professional conduct that police officers must uphold.

“An allegation of police misconduct is not merely a managerial matter which should be shielded from public view, especially if it results in a disciplinary hearing.”

The NMA expressed concern over proposals for exceptions to making details public stating that they “would enable the unjustified exclusion of the press and public from the hearing” adding that proposed exceptions “will all be easily exploited by any police officer and his representatives to avoid any adverse publicity.”

“This would be wholly contrary to the consultation’s professed objectives of an open and transparent police disciplinary system.”

“The regional and local press has had long experience of inconsistent practices, which can facilitate deliberate and entrenched secrecy, in the absence of statutory requirements. The regional and local press have also had long experience of police forces varying degrees of reluctance to release information to the media and to the public.”

“The NMA therefore considers that press and public rights to specific information and the obligations to supply and release information by the police and those involved in the police disciplinary system ought to be clearly set out in legislation and included in the amended regulations.”

The NMA welcome the government’s impact statement which stated: “Public perception of police integrity has suffered in the wake of incidents including ‘Plebgate’, the findings of the Ellison review into the investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. Police disciplinary hearings, police appeals tribunals, and police special case hearings are currently held in private, shrouding them in an unnecessary air of secrecy.”