How we deal with serious cases during an investigation
In certain cases we may apply for an Interim Order during an investigation. An Interim Order is a measure to protect the public by preventing a registrant from practising, or restricting their practise, whilst an investigation takes place. An Interim Order will be required in cases where concerns about a registrant’s fitness to practise are so serious that public safety would be put at risk, or there would be a risk to the public interest, if the registrant was allowed to practise without restriction. We may also apply for an Interim Order if we consider that it is in the registrant’s own interests to do so.
Due to the restrictive effects of Interim Orders we will only use these powers where it is proportionate and necessary to do so to ensure public protection. In most cases we will not need to apply for an Order and registrants can continue to practise during an investigation.
If we decide to apply for an Interim Order we will notify the registrant and provide them with a copy of the documents we are relying on. Due to their urgency, Interim Orders are usually scheduled at short notice. We try to give registrants seven days’ notice of the Interim order hearing.
What happens at an Interim Order hearing
We must apply to one of our practice committees for an Interim Order to be imposed. The panel will hear our application along with any submissions made by the registrant. The panel’s role is not to prove the facts of the case, but to undertake an assessment of the risk of the case based on the information before them.
The panel may make an Interim Order on the basis of one of the following grounds:
- It is necessary to protect the public;
- It is otherwise in the public interest; or
- It is in the interests of the registrant
The panel can choose to:
- Make no order, if they feel there is no immediate or serious risk presented by the registrant continuing to practise without restriction;
- Impose an Interim Conditions of Practice Order, which restricts a registrant’s practice in the way set out by the panel;
- Impose an Interim Suspension Order, which prevents the registrant from practising for as long as the Order is in place.
Registrants have the right to attend Interim Order hearings and/or be represented at them. A registrant may appeal the panel’s decision to impose an Order, or ask for an early review. Any appeal must be made to the High Court or the Court of Session in Scotland.
Registrants can request a review of an Interim Order at any time. A review may be granted if a registrant’s circumstances have changed, or where they have new information which may affect the Order that was made. We can also request an early review of an Order where relevant new information has come to light.
If an Order is made we will not publish the full decision or reasoning of the panel on our website, but we will publish the outcome of the hearing so that members of the public are made aware of it. In certain circumstances a hearing may be held in private. However, we are still required to publish the outcome of the hearing on our website if an order is made.
How long the Interim Order is for
An Interim Order may be imposed for a maximum period of 18 months. If we have not concluded our fitness to practise proceedings against the registrant within that time we must apply to the High Court to extend the Order. The Court can grant an extension to the Order for a further period of 12 months.
During the lifetime of the Order it must be reviewed by a panel. Reviews occur six months after the Order was made, and then every three months after that.