Police’s disciplinary hearings to go public

North Yorkshire Police will be forced to open up disciplinary hearings up to the public, as part of Government measures go improve force transparency.

New Home Office rules came into effect this week, meaning hearings centering on serious allegations must be held in public.

It comes as it’s emerged one North Yorkshire Police officer quit in disgrace last year ahead of their disciplinary hearing, after admitting importing steroids into the country.

The shamed constable quit ahead of the discreditable conduct hearing in November, after accepting a criminal caution for the offence.

Details of the offence, published on the force’s website, don’t include identifiable factors such as the offender’s name or where they were based.

But that would become public knowledge under the pioneering plans, which were revealed on March 12 by Home Secretary Theresa May.

She claimed allowing the cases to be heard in public would make them more open, transparent and would increase protection for whistleblowers.

The rules mean hearings must be held in public in cases where officers or special constables are accused of gross misconduct or breaching professional standards while already on a final warning.

Fast-tracked “special case hearings” where a force considers there to be sufficient evidential and public interest grounds for an officer to leave are also covered by the new rules, as are appeals brought before the Police Appeals Tribunal.

But the rules also give the panel’s chair, who from January will have to be legally qualified, to exclude anybody they see fit from attending the hearing.

The police also don’t have a legal duty to notify the public where and when a hearing will take place and, crucially, who it concerns.

That will be at the discretion of the panel’s chair.

Any interested party can write to the chair ahead of the hearing requesting that notification not be given or that it is held in private.

The new rules came into effect from today.