Specialist Professional Discipline Lawyers
At Olliers our team of experienced professional discipline and regulatory lawyers have provided advice and assistance to professionals across all sectors and at all levels. We understand the pressure and stress that an investigation and proceedings can place upon people and our specialist team have helped many clients navigate this difficult process. Our considerate and pro-active approach means that we are often instructed by doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, healthcare professionals, teachers and lawyers, amongst others.
What is Professional Discipline?
Those working in fields such as medicine, healthcare, law, financial services and teaching will have undergone extensive and rigorous training to secure their place in the profession. Getting there is, however, only part of the journey as when qualified, such professionals often need to meet registration criteria with their sector regulator and abide by codes of conduct, all of which fall under the broad heading of professional discipline.
Although regulators and in some cases membership organisations may use different terminology and take a slightly different approach to particular types of case, the objectives for all are to uphold standards of behaviour to protect the public and maintain public confidence in their particular profession.
Professionals will often need to meet registration criteria and also abide by various codes of conduct, all of which can be said to fall under the broad heading of professional discipline. Although all Regulators will use slightly different terminology and take a slightly different approach to different types of cases, one thing that is central to all professional discipline cases is that the regulator will seek to protect the public, uphold standards of behaviour within the profession and also maintain the reputation of the profession with the wider public.
Here at Olliers, our team of experienced solicitors have provided advice and assistance to professionals from all walks of life including doctors facing allegations before General Medical Council, dentists before the General Dental Council, those being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority and solicitors before the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
If you’ve received correspondence from your regulator or any other professional body, then you should seek advice as soon as possible. The sooner we’re instructed then the sooner we can get on with helping you resolve this matter.
Here at Olliers we understand that any investigation and proceedings that call your professional reputation into question will cause great anxiety. In the first instance we will therefore answer any questions you may have about the process to ensure that you fully understand what to expect. If you’re asked to attend a hearing, whether that be a final hearing or an interim hearing, we will ensure that you’re fully prepared to attend. Our team will also assist you with drafting witness statements, obtaining character references and ensuring that you’re fully prepared to respond to the allegations which you face. We will review any material including allegations and witness statements presented by your regulator and take your instructions on the same.
Each regulator or professional body will have a slightly different approach to how they deal with these cases, it can be broken down into two stages. The first stage is the investigation stage during which the regulator or the professional body will effectively build their case, this will include getting together witness statements from the complainant or any other party that may be witness to the alleged behaviour. During this stage they may also put draft allegations to you, which we can help you respond to. They may also request information or documentation from you. During the investigation stage, the regulator will effectively build their case. This will include obtaining witness statements from the complainant for example or anyone who’s worked with you who may have knowledge of the complaint or the circumstances that are under investigation. The regulator may also ask for information or documentation from you, which we can help you collate. In cases where the regulator or the professional body feels that they have sufficient information or evidence to prove the case or the allegation against you, then they may take the case forward to hearing. That hearing will usually be heard by a specialist panel and here at Olliers we can help you prepare for that. In more serious cases the regulator may feel the need to take immediate action in the form of an interim orders hearing which may lead to suspension or conditions being placed on your registration, therefore it’s crucially important that as soon as the regulator gets in touch with you, you get in touch with us here at Olliers.
The team at Olliers have considerable experience in both criminal and Regulatory matters. Therefore we can assist you with not only your professional discipline case, but any parallel criminal investigation. We will ensure that the strategy taken for the criminal matters do not in any way jeopardise your professional discipline matter later down the line.
The team at Olliers have represented many individuals from various professional backgrounds including teachers before the TRA, solicitors before the SRA and doctors and other healthcare professionals before the MPTS and HCPC to name but a few. We understand that an investigation or proceedings can cause extreme anxiety and stress for you as an individual, therefore at Olliers we aim to provide you with appropriate advice and assistance to ensure the best possible outcome.
Professional Discipline FAQs
Professional discipline is essentially the law, rules and regulations by which professionals such as those working in healthcare, law, teaching and financial services are held to account. Although regulators and in some cases membership organisations may use different terminology and adopt a slightly different approach to such matters, they all have the common objective to implement and uphold standards aimed at protecting the public and maintaining public confidence in their profession.
Each regulator or professional membership organisation will have their own specific procedures, however in broad terms such cases will usually begin with an investigation stage during which the regulator/organisation will collate evidence to help inform the decision about what, if any, action may need to be taken. This process can be lengthy and will often include taking statements from the complainant, employees and employers, as well as, any relevant expert evidence.
If formal allegations are drafted, the professional should then be afforded the opportunity to provide representations and submissions on the same before a decision is taken on whether to progress to a full disciplinary hearing.
In cases which do proceed, a hearing will usually take place before an independent panel with no prior involvement in the case. The regulator or those representing the membership organisation will present their case, including the calling of witnesses and evidence. The professional, often through their representative will have the opportunity to cross examine any witnesses and thereafter also present their own evidence.
Closing submissions on both the law and the facts will often be made and the panel will then decide the outcome of the case. In the most serious cases, a professional may be suspended or struck from the register or have their membership terminated.
When an allegation or concern is raised about the conduct or competence of a professional, it is a matter for the regulator to decide whether or not to open a formal investigation into the same. The most widely recognised regulators include the General Medical Council (doctors); the Nursing and Midwifery Council; the General Dental Council; Solicitors’ Regulation Authority; Financial Conduct Authority and the Teaching Regulation Agency, amongst others.
There are also an increasing number of membership organisations, primarily in the wider health and social care sector, examples include the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy.
Investigations will generally be undertaken by a dedicated team or department within the regulatory body or membership organisation who should not be involved in the decision making process around whether or not the matter should proceed to a full fitness to practise hearing.
Whilst there will be slight variations between how each regulator and membership organisation deals with a case, the first stage in any of these matters is the investigation stage. During this time the investigator will collate all relevant information such as witness statements, records and expert evidence.
In some cases, the professional may also be asked to provide documents or comments on the concerns raised. Whilst not all investigators will have the power to compel a professional to co-operate, it is worth noting that a lack of engagement is unlikely to find favour with the regulator and could have an adverse impact on the case overall.
The dedicated professional discipline team at Olliers understand the stress that any investigation or proceedings which call into question your professional conduct will inevitably cause. Our lawyers will, therefore, answer any questions you may have about the process and we will listen to your concerns and do our very best to address them.
If you have been asked to respond to specific correspondence or allegations from the regulator, we will take your instructions and draft any appropriate response or submissions, as required.
For those who are required to attend a hearing whether that be an interim or final hearing, the team at Olliers will ensure that you are fully prepared for it. We will review all relevant material, collate appropriate material in support of your case and where appropriate will attend at the hearing with you and a barrister to help secure the best possible outcome for you.
Our experienced team have assisted individuals from many different professional backgrounds including those working in the health, legal and financial sectors, as well as those involved in education and sports. We have advised and represented those facing investigation and misconduct proceedings before regulatory and professional bodies including the General Medical Council; the General Dental Council; Nursing and Midwifery Council; Health and Care Professions Council; Solicitors’ Regulation Authority and the Teaching Regulation Authority, amongst others.
What types of Professional Discipline cases do Olliers deal with?
Our experienced team have assisted individuals from many different professional backgrounds. We have advised and represented those facing investigation and misconduct proceedings before regulatory and professional bodies including:
- The General Medical Council (GMC)
- The General Dental Council (GDC)
- Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS)
- Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
- General Optical Council (GOC)
- General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
- General Chiropractic Council (GCC)
- General Osteopathic Council (GOsC)
- Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
- United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
- Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA)
- Bar Standards Board (BSB)
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- Chartered Institute of Accountants of England & Wales Disciplinary Committee (ICAEW)
- Accountancy & Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB)
- Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)
Our team have also assisted a number of sporting professionals with both criminal and regulatory/disciplinary matters including footballers, rugby players, boxers, swimmers and those involved in the shooting fraternity, amongst others.
How can Olliers assist me with my professional regulator?
Our lawyers understand that an investigation or proceedings which call into question your professional conduct will inevitably cause great concern and may well be overwhelming for those who have never been through it before.
In the first instance we will, therefore, answer any questions you may have about the process and we will listen to your concerns and do our very best to address them.
If you have been asked to respond to specific correspondence or allegations from the regulator, we will take your instructions and draft any appropriate response or submissions, as required.
If you are required to attend a hearing whether that be an interim or final hearing, we will ensure that you are fully prepared for it. This will include reviewing any relevant material from the regulator, collating appropriate material in support of your case, as well as, attendance at the hearing with you and a barrister, where necessary.
Our experience includes, but is not limited to, representing those being pursued for allegations such as:
- Breaches of professional standards
- Financial misconduct
- Criminal conduct
- Abuse of position of trust
- Conflicts of interest
What happens in a Professional Discipline case?
Each regulator or professional body will inevitably have a slightly different approach but in general there are common stages to a professional discipline case.
The first is the investigation stage. During this time the regulator will collate all relevant information including statements from any complainant, other witnesses and where relevant expert evidence. They may also request information or documentation from the registrant as they seek to build their case.
Some regulators have compulsory powers to obtain material. Other regulators and membership organisations may not be able to formally require material, however a lack of engagement is unlikely to find favour with the investigator and could have an adverse impact on the case overall.
As part of the investigation stage, the registrant will also normally be invited to respond to draft allegations and this also affords them and their legal team the opportunity to make submissions as to what should happen in the case.
Well-presented submissions which deal with the concerns raised and show insight and learning can result in a case concluding at this stage so the importance of engaging in the process with the benefit of an experienced regulatory lawyer in your corner should not be underestimated.
In cases where the regulator is able to show that they have a realistic prospect of proving their case then the matter will usually be referred to a formal fitness to practise hearing. Hearings will normally take place before specially trained panels made up of professional and lay members whose job it is to decide if the allegations are proven and if so what action ought to be taken against the registrant. In the most serious cases this could mean suspension or erasure but may also include conditions being placed on someone’s registration, for example being required to work under close supervision for a period of time or undertaking specific training to address any performance issues.
It is also worth noting that many regulators will also consider whether or not any action needs to be taken at the outset, pending the outcome of an investigation and if so an interim orders hearing may be convened. During this process the regulator may ask for conditions to be imposed or even an interim suspension so again it is important to seek appropriate legal advice and assistance, especially as investigations can take many months and sometimes years to complete.
When should I seek legal advice in a Professional Discipline case?
Whilst the team at Olliers are highly skilled and able to assist you at any stage of the disciplinary process, we would always advise you to get in touch with our experts at the earliest opportunity.
If you have received information from your regulator or professional membership organisation, telling you that they are conducting an investigation into your professional conduct or even if you are concerned that an investigation may be likely, then you should get in touch
It may be that written responses or submissions are requested at an early stage by your regulator; on occasion these written representations can stop a case from going any further, therefore do not delay, contact our experts as soon as possible
Can Olliers help if I have a parallel criminal investigation?
If you are also facing a criminal investigation, Olliers can assist you with both the criminal investigation and the often parallel professional discipline proceedings. We will always seek to ensure that the strategy agreed upon during the criminal stage of proceedings does not jeopardise your position at a later stage before your regulator.
Our team of expert lawyers can help you with:
- Immediate advice and assistance if you are arrested;
- Representation at a PACE interview
- Proactive representation throughout any police investigation;
- Representation at the Magistrates’ or Crown Court if you are prosecuted;
Olliers can assist on either an hourly rate basis or by way of agreed fees for different stages of the case. Please contact us to discuss your needs. You may also have the benefit of legal expenses insurance and our team have worked closely with many of the main insurance companies and brokers, therefore we are more than happy to discuss this with you and your insurer to make sure that you obtain appropriate legal advice from your chosen lawyer here at Olliers.
- 2023 – GDC – Pre-charge investigation into sexual assault. Matter referred to IOT by GMC to consider appropriate sanctions. None were made and ultimately no further action was taken in relation to the criminal matter as well.
- 2022 – GDC – represented a dentist before the Professional Conduct Committee in respect of allegations that they had failed to provide an appropriate standard of care and also been misleading and lacking in integrity in their dealings with a patient. Not all allegations proven and client ended up with workable conditions for 12 months.
- 2022 – HCPTS – represented a retired health care professional facing multiple allegations brought by the HCPC which alleged their fitness to practise was impaired by reason of misconduct and/or lack of competence. The specifics of the allegations included accusations that the registrant had failed to safeguard vulnerable individuals and acted dishonestly. Case heard before the Conduct and Competence Committee and none of the allegations were found to be proven.
- 2022 – TRA proceedings – represented a teacher alleged to have sexually touched a work colleague at a works party.
- 2022 – TRA proceedings – advised a former teacher following allegations of inappropriate relations with students.
- 2022 – Representation of a serving police officer under investigation in relation to misconduct in a public office
- 2021 – Proceedings before the TRA in relation to a teacher alleged to have formed a relationship with a former student
- 2020 – Fitness to practice hearing before the Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal Service (MPTS)
- 2020 – Representation of solicitor in connection with the potential criminal / regulatory issues that might arise from a misconduct complaint made against him by an employee of the firm of Solicitors of which A was an Equity Partner.
- 2020 – Proceedings before the Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal Service (MPTS) following allegations of dishonesty
- 2020 – Police Misconduct Hearing following conviction of serving police officer for sexual offences
- Representation of solicitor facing SRA investigation as a result of text messages sent to client in custody. Following representations our client did not face prosecution before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
Contact our Professional Discipline Lawyers
If you are facing an investigation or the possibility of an investigation by your regulator or professional body and wish to speak to one of our team, please contact us at the earliest possible opportunity for a confidential discussion. We are able to represent you wherever you are based across England and Wales. All of our specialists have substantial experience in dealing with a range of regulatory investigations and proceedings, as well as, complex criminal cases.