POLICE chiefs have responded after two officer misconduct hearings were announced to be held behind closed doors.

This comes after Thames Valley Police anonymised the outcome of another misconduct hearing in June.

The three hearings were all decided to be held away from the public and the press by legally qualified chairpeople.

This means very few details are known about the officers accused of behaving badly, sparking a police watchdog to say there is a presumption that hearings of this nature should be held in public.

What is a police misconduct hearing?

Thames Valley Police’s website says a hearing of this nature takes place when they believe someone employed by the force has breached standards of professional behaviour.

READ MORE: Officer used racist language, misconduct panel finds

“At the hearing, the facts of the case will be presented and the officer involved will have the opportunity to explain their conduct and the circumstances surrounding the allegation. We hold some misconduct hearings and special case hearings in public.”

Over the past year, multiple misconduct hearings have been held in public.

What details do we have about the upcoming private hearings?

The first hearing held behind closed doors, which took place on June 23 and 24 in Kidlington, saw a panel discuss a former officer who allegedly used racially offensive language towards a colleague.

The panel found the allegation proven, breached the force’s standards of professional behaviour and their behaviour amounted to gross misconduct.

However, the panel was unable to conclude that the officer would have been sacked if he was still with the force.

No details about the officer, including his name, age, rank or where he was based were given.

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On June 14, 2022, TVP announced a second misconduct hearing was to take place in secret between August 2 and August 5, 2022.

No details about the accused officer -- nor what he has been accused of -- have been given in the hearing notice.

The legally qualified chair in this hearing -- Nicola Talbot-Hadley -- made the decision to anonymise the hearing.

She explained: “The chair considers that the particular circumstances of this case may outweigh the public interest in holding the hearing in public, notwithstanding the interests of transparency.

“In adopting this position, the chair has carried out a careful balancing exercise involving factors of public interest, transparency and scrutiny of police misconduct versus the individual welfare of those concerned in the hearing and the ability of a misconduct Panel to effectively evaluate all of the evidence.”

The media has been allowed to make representations appealing for this hearing to be held in public. This newspaper has made such representations.

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And on June 28, Thames Valley Police announced it would be holding an ‘accelerated’ misconduct hearing in private.

It will take place over video conference on Tuesday, July 5, in front of Chief Constable John Campbell.

Again, no details have been given about the officer or what they are alleged to have done.

The misconduct notice outlined the same reasons for excluding the press and the public as it did for the scheduled August hearing.

What does the Independent Office for Police Conduct have to say about these behind-closed-doors hearings?

A spokesperson for the IOPC said: “Openness and transparency are vital for public confidence in the police complaints and discipline system. For that reason, there is a presumption that police misconduct hearings, which are organised by police forces, should be heard in public, in accordance with Home Office guidance.

“The IOPC has previously suggested there may be merit in a broader review of disciplinary proceedings which could look at whether decisions are consistent and whether the rationale for them are adequately transparent and communicated effectively to the public.”

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What does Thames Valley Police have to say about the hearings being held in private?

This newspaper asked TVP to explain if it makes representations to hold misconduct hearings in private.

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson responded: “The decision to hold a misconduct hearing in private is made at a prehearing by the legally qualified chair following representations which can be made by either party, supported by evidence.

“In assessing whether any person should be excluded from a hearing or any part of a hearing, the chair may take into account a variety of factors, as set out in the Home Office Guidance.

“It is also worth noting that police staff hearings are always held in private because police staff are employees and subject to employment law which dictates that these are private proceedings, as opposed to officers who are subject to the Police Conduct Regulations and publicity.

“In all cases, Thames Valley Police respects the decision of the legally qualified chair.”