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Guidance for Chairs of the Professional Conduct Committee

In advance of the hearing

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that:

  1. they have an understanding of the likely timings of the hearing, and they raise matters with the Hearings Officer (HO) if they have any serious concerns as to the running of proceedings; 
  2. they have issued case-management directions as appropriate, and if necessary have called a pre-hearing case-management meeting (see separate guidance note on case-management meetings).

On the day, before the hearing commences

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that:

  1. the Committee is aware of what cases are to be heard, who is attending and with what legal representation, and whether any witnesses will be called; 
  2. the Committee has all the correct papers – this should be confirmed with the HO; 
  3. if the respondent is not present, whether there are any issues relating to the service of the Notice of Hearing. The Committee should regard the Notice as properly served if it had been sent by registered letter to the registered address of the architect (or their legal representative); 
  4. their fellow Committee members are aware of the way in which they propose to manage the hearing to ensure it is conducted fairly and on time. They should also be given an opportunity to ask questions or raise issues that may concern them; 
  5. whether there will be any preliminary arguments, and if so the type of preliminary argument (e.g. application to adjourn, abuse of process application etc.); 
  6. that all parties are called into the hearing room for the time of commencement of the hearing (usually 9:30am). If the parties are not ready to commence, ask them
      • why they are not ready;
      • what the outstanding issues are, and;
      • how long they will take to resolve.

    Consider any such application, and if appropriate grant an adjournment to an appropriate time. This may or may not be the time suggested by the parties.

During the hearing

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that:

  1. the proceedings are conducted within the provisions of the Professional Conduct Committee Rules; 
  2. all parties are informed of the Committee’s role, its membership, and the identity of any other relevant parties in the room; 
  3. all those appearing before the Committee engage with the process as effectively as possible; for example by ensuring that any questions posed to them are capable of being understood, that cultural differences are taken into consideration (e.g. that reasonable efforts are made to accommodate those who may be fasting, or have a disability etc). The Chairman should consider intervening if a witness appears unduly stressed while giving evidence and, if appropriate, take a short adjournment; 
  4. the time allotted to a particular case is used effectively. If necessary, the Chair should intervene if either party (or their representative) strays from the issue at hand, or repeats arguments already heard and understood by the Committee. The Chair may also wish to discuss issues relating to time keeping, attendance of witnesses etc. with the parties; 
  5. that unrepresented respondents, who may have little understanding of the proceedings, are kept informed at various points during the hearing as to the particular stage reached, and what they can and cannot say at any particular juncture; 
  6. the Committee members concentrate on the issues they are being asked to consider, and should intervene should any member stray from those matters, ask inappropriate questions or is argumentative; 
  7. any legal or procedural advice that they give to the Committee in private is relayed to the parties in the open session of the hearing, and that the parties are given the opportunity to respond to that advice; 
  8. all documents referred to in the hearing are formally exhibited on the record so that they may be recorded by the HO; 
  9. breaks are taken at appropriate times.

During Deliberations 

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that:

  1. the Committee members understand the issue(s) under consideration and remain focused on it/them; 
  2. time is used effectively; 
  3. all members contribute to the deliberations and decision making. If necessary, the Chair should bring in any member who appears reticent and ask any member who appears to be dominating the discussion to allow others to speak; 
  4. that, in absence of unanimous agreement on any particular matter, a vote is taken and that the Committee’s decision will reflect the outcome of that vote.

Decisions

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that:

  1. all Committee members are involved in the drafting of the decision, i.e. the structure it should follow, the issues identified etc.; 
  2. the decision is legally correct, relevant and clear; 
  3. the decision is clear and reasoned, explaining how the decision was reached and which evidence the Committee chose to rely on. The Committee does not need to give reasons for all findings of fact, but should bear in mind the advice of Mr Justice Wall:

In every case, as it seems to me, every Tribunal needs to ask itself the elementary questions: is what we have decided clear? Have we explained our decision and how we have reached it in such a way that the parties before us can understand clearly why they have won or why they have lost

If, in asking itself those questions the PCC comes to the conclusion that in answering them it needs to explain the reasons for a particular finding or findings of fact that, in my judgment, is what it should do. Very grave outcomes are at stake. Respondents to proceedings before the PCC of the GMC are liable to be found guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck off the Register. They are entitled to know in clear terms why such findings have been made.

(Phipps v The General Medical Council [2006] ECWA Civ 397)

  1. in terms of penalty imposed: why the Committee chose to impose the sanction it has, including why other sanctions were dismissed.

After the hearing

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that:

 

  1. Committee members understand their obligations in relation to confidentiality and data protection before they leave the venue; 
  2. Feedback on the case is provided to ARB as appropriate; 
  3. They approve/amend the news release as drafted by ARB.

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