When a formal complaint against a member of the Register is made, it is the duty of the Register to investigate that complaint. The complaint should be in writing and contain what evidence the complainant considers relevant to the complaint. In the first instance, the Secretary of the Register acknowledges receipt of the complaint, and passes it to the Vice-President, who then convenes a preliminary meeting of the Professional Ethics Sub-Committee (PESC) to examine the complaint. The Secretary also writes to the member concerned with a copy of the complaint asking whether the member admits or denies the allegation, and offers the member the opportunity to present evidence in their defence, either in writing or in person.
If the PESC feels that the complaint is outside the scope of the Handbook, for example, a difference of opinion between two members about a contract of employment, or a dispute between a patient and a member about an account for treatment fees, the complainant is advised of the fact.
If the PESC feels that the severity of the alleged offence is so great that it does not have sufficient powers of punishment, the complaint is passed to the President, who then convenes a meeting of the Professional Ethics Committee (PEC).
If the PESC feels that it has sufficient powers of punishment for the conduct alleged, a full meeting is called. The PESC shall have power to obtain evidence from any source which it considers to be relevant to any matter under consideration, although any person under investigation shall be entitled to know of such evidence and comment upon and submit evidence in rebuttal of it, if appropriate. The PESC has the discretion to adjourn any oral or written inquiry to obtain further evidence, or where a person under investigation applies for the matter to be adjourned and shows sufficient cause for an adjournment.
If the member is found guilty of proscribed conduct, the PESC has a range of options including censure or fine. If the matter is dealt with by the PEC, the process is basically the same, except that, is the members is found guilty, the PEC has, in addition to its other options, the power to remove a member from the Register for a specified length of time. Members found guilty of proscribed conduct have a right to appeal, to the PEC if their case was heard by the PESC, or to an Appeal Panel if their case was heard by the PEC.
It is important to bear in mind that the Code of Professional Conduct and the procedures by which it is enforced are not immutable, and are constantly subject to review, particularly with reference to changes in the law both in the United Kingdom and in Europe.
For more information, please contact the Secretary.