Although there are general principles which are applicable to all regulators, each regulator has their own set of procedural rules. It is therefore important to take advice as soon as possible if any concerns are raised about your fitness to practice. The following sets out advice in respect of SSSC cases.
The SSSC may seek a Temporary Order (previously known as an Interim Order) whilst they complete their investigation into the allegations about your fitness to practice.
What are Temporary Order Hearings?
Temporary Order Hearings take place when the SSSC seeks to suspend, or impose conditions, on your practice whilst they carry out an investigation into the alleged fitness to practice concerns.
What happens at a Temporary Order Hearing?
At the Temporary Order Hearing, there will usually be a Panel of three to hear the case. The Panel is made up of two “lay persons”, meaning they have no background in your profession. The third member is a “due regard” member, who is usually a registered practitioner and in the same profession as you. The Panel are provided with advice by a Legal Assessor, who is an independent solicitor.
The SSSC’s case will always be presented by a solicitor or advocate. The SSSC Case Presenter will make their arguments in support of a Temporary Order. You will then have the opportunity to make arguments against the Temporary Order. This may involve you giving evidence. You may be asked questions by the SSSC Case Presenter, and the Panel.
In order to ensure equality of arms at any SSSC hearing, it is advisable for you to have a lawyer representing your interests.
What are the possible outcomes of a Temporary Orders Hearing?
It is possible for the Panel to impose no order, a Temporary Conditions Order, or a Temporary Suspension Order.
A Temporary Conditions Order allows you to continue working. However this is subject to certain conditions, such as supervision requirements, being restricted from carrying out certain duties, etc. Prior to imposing these conditions, the SSSC will seek evidence on whether the conditions are workable and enforceable. In some circumstances, the SSSC shall ask you to obtain this evidence. Prior to attending any hearing at which conditions may be imposed, it is therefore important to identify an individual from your employer who has the authority to advise the SSSC of the employer’s opinion of the workability and enforceability of proposed conditions.
A Temporary Suspension Order prevents you from practicing in your profession for the duration of the Order.
Temporary Orders can be imposed for a maximum of two years, however this can be extended in certain circumstances. The imposition of such Temporary Orders can therefore have a substantial impact.
At Temporary Order Hearings, the SSSC does not undertake a detailed assessment of the evidence, does not making findings of fact, and does not make findings as to whether the allegations are or are not established. It is the function of the Panel to determine whether or not, on the face of it, there is evidence of a complaint of impaired fitness to practice. The facts of the allegations, generally, can only be disputed where the evidence is manifestly unreliable, contradicted by objectively verifiable facts or witness testimony is patently exaggerated.
If the SSSC consider that there is, on the face of it, a case of impaired fitness to practice, then they require to consider whether a Temporary Order is necessary for the protection of the public, is in the public interest, or is otherwise in the interests of the individual registrant.
As such, the SSSC do not have to prove the allegations against an individual before they can suspend them for up to two years. It is therefore critical to obtain legal advice at the Temporary Order stage.
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