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At the final hearing
Hearings are usually held in public. This means that members of the public (including the press) can attend. Information heard in public, may result in reports in newspapers, on the internet and sometimes on television.
Sometimes hearings are held in private due to the confidential information involved. This may be the case if, for example, the panel think they need to protect service users’ confidentiality or to protect your private life or that of any witnesses. You (or your representative) can apply to the panel to hear all or part of a hearing in private. Even if the panel hold a hearing in private, any decisions the panel make, and the reasons for them, still need to be given in public (although sensitive or confidential information will not be revealed).
The panel considering the case will usually be made up of:
- a registrant from the same profession as you;
- a lay person who is not registered with us; and
- a panel chair (who may be a lay person or a registrant from one of our professions) who leads the hearing and speaks for the panel.
An independent legal assessor (an experienced lawyer) will also be at the hearing. They will give advice on law and procedure to the panel and other people taking part in the hearing. A transcript writer will take notes of everything that is said at the hearing.
The HCPC presenting officer (usually a lawyer) will normally open the hearing by presenting our case and calling our witnesses. You or your representative may question the witnesses. The panel may then also ask some questions. After we have presented our case and called our witnesses, you or your representative will present your case, call witnesses or make statements to the panel.
The panel will then leave the hearing room to make its decision on whether the allegation is ‘well-founded’. The panel has to decide whether:
- The HCPC has proved the facts set out in the allegation;
- the facts amount to the ‘grounds’ set out in the allegation (for example, misconduct or a lack of competence); and
- your fitness to practise is impaired as a result.
When they make their decision, the panel will look at whether your past behaviour suggests you may still present a continuing risk of harm. For each decision they make, they will give reasons that they will read out in public.
What other factors will the panel consider?
In deciding whether your fitness to practise is impaired, the panel take account of other factors.
These relate to you and the wider public. Those factors include:
- whether you have ignored previous warnings;
- whether you have taken action to correct your behaviour;
- whether you have insight (understanding of the harm you have caused)
- whether you know what action to take to practise safely and effectively;
- the link between the conduct and your profession;
- whether you behaviour has undermined public confidence;
- whether you have not met our standards of conduct, performance and ethics; and
- whether you are likely to repeat the behaviour.
What powers do the panel have?
If the panel find the case is well-founded, they will return to hear submissions from you or your representative and from us about what action they should take. You may want to make a statement to the panel at this stage. The panel can:
- take no further action or order mediation (a process where an independent person helps you and the other people involved agree a solution);
- caution you (place a warning against your name on the Register for between one to five years);
- set conditions of practice that you must meet (for no longer than three years);
- suspend you from practice (for no longer than one year); or
- strike your name from our Register (which means you cannot practise).
The decision is based on whether your current fitness to practise is impaired and so is based on your circumstances at the time of the hearing.
Actions the panel take are to protect the public and are not meant as a punishment. The panel carefully consider the circumstances of each case and take into account all that has been said at the hearing before making their decision.
After the hearing we will write to you and send you a copy of the panel’s decision. If the allegation against you is well-founded, we will put this information on our website. This will include the panel’s reasons and decision. If the case has involved any particularly sensitive information about your health or personal circumstances, we will make sure that the version available on the website does not include these very personal details. If you have any concerns about this, please contact us.
You can find more detail about the sanctions the panels may use in the Indicative Sanctions policy.
Further guidance on what to do at a hearing is available on the hearings section of our website.