Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Ian Tomlinson death: Disciplinary Hearing - will it be in public?

The Police Officer who struck and pushed Mr Ian Tomlinson is to face misconduct proceedings - The Guardian 27th July.

Police Misconduct and Complaints is a complicated area of the law and a number of lawyers specialise in it.  Perhaps the principal book on the law is "Police Misconduct, Complaints and Public Regulation" by barristers John Beggs and Hugh Davies.

Such proceedings are normally held in private but there is a power under the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008 - Reg. 32(5) - for the IPCC to require this hearing to be held in public.  The IPCC's Statutory Guidance on the Handling of Complaints refers to this at paragraphs 479-481.  In making a decision whether to order that the hearing be held in public, the IPCC will follow its own guidelines - see the criteria laid down under the earlier 2004 Regulations (here) though the IPCC has been reviewing the guidance- see here.  Under the guidance, the IPCC must first consult a number of parties including the officer in question.

Some time ago, there was considerable opposition within the Police to holding these hearings in public - (see, for example, Daily Mail 3rd January 2007) - since there was a concern that hearings would be turned into "pseudo-show trials".

Under the Police Conduct Regulations, the officer may be represented at the hearing by a lawyer and an appeal (on certain grounds) is possible to the Police Appeals Tribunal.  [Appeals are the subject of separate Regulations.  An appeal tribunal for an officer who is NOT a senior officer consists of 4 persons and the legally qualified chairman has a casting vote - Police Act 1996 Schedule 6).

Given the massive public interest in this case and the likelihood of loss of public confidence in the process if the hearing were to be held in private, this would seem to be an appropriate case for the power to be exercised.  A public hearing would also give a public hearing to the officer's side of the case and, it is important to note,  this has not yet been heard by the public.  The IPCC decision on the matter is awaited.

Addendum 28th July: There are calls by MPs for a Judge to be appointed to conduct the inquest into Mr Tomlinson's death - see BBC 28th July.


  1. Thank you for this great post, especially with all the relevant links. This really is exceptional legal blogging.

  2. Whilst the officer's side of things does need to heard, I am particularly interested in hearing his excuse for removing his badge and concealing his face.

  3. Jack of Kent - many thanks. I feel honoured by your comments.

    Ian - yes, you are right. This should be an element of the story. Looking at it logically, is there any other explanation than his wish not to be identified? Of course, officers of higher rank must have permitted that kind of conduct.