An increasing number of professionals are subject to regulation by a governing body. In a very small number of cases a profession is self-regulating but in the vast majority of cases the regulating body is a creature of statute.
The regulator typically publishes a code of conduct which those in the particular profession must comply. In the event of a breach of the code of conduct, the regulator – usually following a hearing – has the right to impose a sanction if the breach is proven. The sanction might be a simple admonishment but it could be removal from the list of professionals thus denying the individual the right to practise.
* The General Teaching Council for England is to be disbanded on 31 March 2012 but until that time it retains its full powers.
What are Professional and Regulatory Proceedings?
Professional and Regulatory proceedings can be summarised as the exercise of statutory and/or contractual powers by a supervising body over its members. The exact way in which regulatory proceedings are conducted does vary from one regulator to another. However, there are common threads of investigation and adjudication.
Whilst it does not feel this way to those subject to regulatory proceedings, they are not designed to be punitive in nature. The general purpose of regulatory proceedings is:
It therefore follows that regulatory proceedings are not there just to maintain the standards of practice and ethics within the profession. Regulatory proceedings may also be utilised even where any alleged wrongdoing is not related to the profession at all. No one would doubt that a solicitor who misused client’s money or a teacher who had a relationship with a student ought to be called to account for those actions; but a doctor who is convicted of shoplifting may also be subject to regulatory proceedings so as to maintain public confidence in the medical profession as a whole.
In certain cases the regulator may decide that an interim hearing is appropriate to determine whether or not the professional ought to be subject to conditions on his or her right to practise pending the outcome of a substantive hearing.
Those sitting on the panel in regulatory proceedings are usually a combination of representatives from the relevant profession and lay persons but they are not always legally qualified. However, a qualified legal adviser is usually to hand to guide the panel. The rules of natural justice should be applied and the High Court has the inherent right to review any decision made.
No doubt this will be a difficult time but it is important to take advice at an early stage.
Representation and regulation of professionals is usually performed by separate entities; for example the British Medical Association (which represents doctors) and the GMC (which regulates doctors). Your representative body may be able to assist you.
You may have insurance, through your representative body or otherwise against regulatory proceedings. If you are unable to pay for advice then you may wish to contact the National Pro Bono Centre to see if it can offer you any guidance.
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