A regional daily has hit out after being barred from a police force’s misconduct hearing despite a government ruling that they should be held in public.
10 MARCH 2016 | UPDATED: 11 MARCH 2016 | BY David Sharman FOR Hold The Front Page
West Midlands Police held a secret misconduct hearing for an officer who allegedly had "an inappropriate relationship with a vulnerable person."
But the force refused to name the officer or any details of the case to the Birmingham Mail - months after the Home Secretary Theresa May, left, ruled misconduct hearings should be open to the press and public.In an editorial about the decision, the Mail said the new rules had also “allowed the police to exclude the public without explanation or the right to challenge.”
It reads: “There are times when the press cannot report everything it would like. But, when anonymity orders are made in criminal and civil courts, we at least have the right to know who is applying for the order and on what grounds.
“In acting as the eyes and the ears of the public, the press also has the right to oppose such orders. Many are correctly imposed in order to protect children and victims of sexual offences – but not all of them are.”
“It’s especially worrying considering what we have seen in the West Midlands since these hearings became public. Since last July, we have seen officers dismissed for stealing, for attacking members of the public and for lying.
“Those officers received no such anonymity and should be the first in line to complain about decisions to hold hearings in private.”
It went on: “West Midlands Police chief constable David Thompson said last week that some of the cases had been embarrassing for the officers involved.
“He would probably concede they were embarrassing for the force, too. But these are not just issues between an employer and an employee, as has been suggested.
“In this specific case, there is a clear public interest in reporting allegations that an officer has had an inappropriate relationship with a vulnerable person. If there is a concern around vulnerability, measures can be put in place to protect the person.
“Police officers are highly-trusted public servants paid for by the public. If they are accused of breaching that trust, the public surely has the right to hear about it.”
The Home Office told the Mail that the decision to hold such meetings in public was subject to the discretion of the person chairing it.
A spokesman for West Midlands Police said: “The decision is made on a case by case basis and is based upon a number of factors including, the transparency of the police misconduct or complaints system, the vulnerability, physical or mental health of the complainant, witnesses, officers subject to the proceedings or any other third party and other factors relating to sensitive police operations.”