Journalists to gain access to police disciplinary hearings

Police officers could face public disciplinary hearings in "exceptional
circumstances" where there are accusations of serious incompetence or
neglect, it emerged today.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has powers to compel
officers accused of serious failings could be compelled to attend
tribunals open to victims, relatives and the media.


But a case would have to meet a number of criteria in order to warrant a
public hearing, which would be held only if the commission "considers
that because of the gravity or other exceptional circumstances it would
be in the public interest to do so", an IPCC spokeswoman said.

If relevant issues in a case had already been aired in another public
forum, for example in a criminal trial or inquest, that was likely to
count against holding a public disciplinary hearing.

The hearings were about "public confidence in policing", the spokeswoman
said, adding: "This is not a new power, we have had it since our
inception in 2004, but we haven't used it.

"What we've been doing since our inception is consulting with the police
and other organisations about what exceptional circumstances would be.

"This is not going to be a routine thing, only the most serious cases."

She cited the case of showjumper Tania Moore, who was shot dead by her
former boyfriend, Mark Dyche, in 2004, as one for which a public hearing
could have been necessary.

Before she died, the 26-year-old had told Derbyshire Police that Dyche
had threatened her.

In October 2006, a number of police officers faced a private misconduct
hearing for allegedly failing to take action.

The spokeswoman said: "While there was a murder trial, that was about
the murder, it wasn't really focused on the police."

IPCC chairman Nick Hardwick told The Times: "It's an exceptional power.
We are not saying as a matter of course the police are going to find
themselves in public."

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