More than 300 officers waiting to face misconduct hearings

More than 300 Metropolitan Police officers are waiting to face gross misconduct hearings after being accused of alleged serious breaches in their behaviour, the force has revealed.

The crackdown comes as the Met tries to root out rogue and violent officers following the convictions of Wayne Couzens who murdered Sarah Everard, and serial rapist David Carrick, who was jailed in February for 85 serious offences over 17 years.

As the force works to rebuild public trust and confidence, its ability to carry out the hearings has been criticised for moving too slow as the backlog of cases grows to 335.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy warned that this number was a “significant increase compared to this time last year”.

He said to clear the system he wants the Met to hold 30 misconduct hearings and 30 gross incompetence hearings each month. Hundreds of officers face the sack if gross misconduct is proven.

Lawyers known as legally qualified chairs (LQCs) were brought in to oversee police disciplinary panels in 2016 as part of efforts to make the system more transparent, but critics say it is too slow and senior officers are more likely to sack those found guilty of wrongdoing.

Mr Cundy said: “The Met currently have 335 officers awaiting a gross misconduct hearing.

“A significant increase compared to this time last year.

“We are planning for 30 misconduct hearings and 30 gross incompetence hearings to take place per month.

“Managing this many hearings requires an ambitious plan, which is vitally important if we are to rebuild the public’s trust and confidence.”

He added: “This will require additional funding, case managers, lawyers and hearing suites to manage the significant increases in cases.

“We also need the support of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, to maximise the availability of legally qualified chairs (LQCs) so they can schedule and chair more hearings.

“This work is part of the strongest reform of culture and standards in decades and is a crucial element of our mission for more trust, less crime, high standards.”

Since he took on the role of Metropolitan Police Commissioner last year, Sir Mark Rowley has been pushing for change after estimating there were hundreds of rogue officers in his force, but the rules in place meant he was powerless to dismiss them.

The Home Office carried out a review of the police disciplinary system after the high-profile cases.

Plans to overhaul the disciplinary process, announced in August, included the possibility of police officers in England and Wales facing automatic dismissal if found guilty of gross misconduct.

It was suggested that chief constables or other senior officers could have greater powers to root out and sack rogue staff from their forces as part of reforms which would see them again preside over misconduct hearings.

Force bosses could also have the right to challenge decisions, the Home Office said, while law changes would ensure officers who fail vetting checks can be sacked.

The head of watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct previously warned against making chief constables “judge and jury” in disciplinary hearings.

Under the plans, a finding of gross misconduct would automatically result in a police officer’s dismissal unless exceptional circumstances apply.

The Home Office was unable to explain what would be classed as an exceptional circumstance but said it would be down to the disciplinary panel in the case to decide whether this would exempt an officer from being immediately fired.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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