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> The investigations process - further information
The investigations process - further information
What happens when my concern is received?
We will review your concern to decide whether it is about an issue we can deal with. We sometimes receive information about issues we cannot deal with. If this is the case with your concern, we will write to you to explain and will try to direct you to another organisation that might be able to help you.
If your concern is about something we can deal with, we will open a case and assess the available information and decide whether it meets our Standard of acceptance. This is the level a concern about a registrant must meet before we will investigate it as a fitness to practise allegation. We may make further enquiries to help us make this decision, for example, we may ask you or someone else for more information.
If we find your concern does not meet the Standard of acceptance, we will close the case and take no further action. We will write to you to explain the reasons for our decision.
If we find your concern does meet the Standard of acceptance, we will go ahead with an investigation. We will write to you to explain what will happen next. We will also write to the registrant to tell them that a fitness to practise concern about them has been raised and that we are investigating it further.
What happens if my concern is investigated?
We will gather any other relevant information about your concern and once we have enough information we will draft a formal fitness to practise allegation. This will be in a different style to the concern we originally received from you and will only deal with the aspects of your concern which have met the Standard of acceptance.
We will send the allegation and a copy of the information we have gathered, including any information you have sent us, to the registrant. The reason for this is that we must give the registrant an opportunity to respond to the allegation so they must fully understand what has been alleged.
The registrant will have 28 days to respond to the allegation. In some cases we may give them more time. They do not have to respond but, if they do, we will not give you a copy of their response. This is because they are giving their response to the Investigating Committee Panel rather than to you. They may provide information about their personal circumstances or sensitive information which would not be appropriate to give you. If there are points that we need to clarify with you, your case manager will write to you and ask you specific questions.
The Investigating Committee
After the registrant has been given the opportunity to respond to the allegation, we will pass details of the case to an Investigating Committee Panel. The Investigating Committee Panel will decide whether or not there is a ‘case to answer’. Each Investigating Committee Panel is made up of at least three people, including someone from the relevant profession and a ‘lay’ person who is not from any of the professions we regulate. The meeting is held in private and their task is to look at the evidence that is available and decide whether we will be likely to prove the allegation. The Investigating Committee Panel does not decide whether the allegation is proven. They only decide whether we have a real prospect of proving the allegation at a final hearing.
The Investigating Committee Panel can decide that:
- more information is needed or the allegation needs to be amended;
- there is a ‘case to answer’ (which means they will pass the case to another panel); or
- there is ‘no case to answer’ (which means that the case does not need to be taken any further).
The Investigating Committee Panel will give reasons for the decision they make. We will write to you (and the registrant involved) and give you the Investigating Committee Panel’s decision and reasons.
Is the Investigating Committee Panel’s decision final?
There is no process to allow you to appeal against a decision at this stage. However, you can apply for a judicial review if you think we have not followed our processes correctly. Judicial review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action by a public body. It would allow you to challenge the way in which the decision has been made by the Investigating Committee Panel or the process we followed. If you want to apply for judicial review, you must apply to the High Court or the Court of Session in Scotland, as soon as possible after the Investigating Committee Panel’s decision and in any event within three months of that decision. You should get legal advice if you plan to apply for judicial review. You can find more information on the Judicial Communications Office website here.
Taking previous concerns into account
When considering whether there is a case to answer in relation to a concern about a registrant, the Investigating Committee Panel have the legal power to take into account any other similar concerns made against the registrant within the previous three years. The purpose of this power is to make sure that a concern which has been closed, because a case to answer could not be established, can still be taken into account if another similar concern is made against a registrant, and it is relevant to do so.
The previous concern will be taken into account as similar-fact evidence and will not be re-opened as a new investigation.