Hearing process

Where the tribunal is to hear an application or disciplinary matter it will convene with a panel comprising a Chair (either the Chairperson or Deputy Chairperson of the Tribunal), two lay members, and two practitioner members.

The tribunal normally hears matters in the centre nearest the place in which a practitioner practises.

Hearings are normally open to the public and the tribunal's decisions are published as part of its website.  The tribunal has various powers and can make a variety of orders under those powers.

There are various procedures to be followed when proceedings are commenced, including pre-trial conferences and actual preparation for hearing.  The requirements of the tribunal in this regard are set out in a Practice Note issued by the tribunal.

At the hearing itself, the tribunal acts in the same way as a court, under the control and direction of the Chair.  Parties to the proceedings are usually represented by counsel, although sometimes practitioners or employees/former employees represent themselves.

Evidence, which is usually filed in advance by affidavit, will be considered at the hearing. The persons who completed affidavit evidence must attend if required and be available for cross-examination on statements they have made in their evidence. After all parties have completed giving, and being examined on, their evidence, general submissions on the key issues are normally made by or on behalf of the parties involved.

The tribunal has the power to allow all or part of a proceeding to be heard in private, but the normal position is that hearings are in public unless there are circumstances where privacy would be justified. Similarly, the tribunal may prohibit publication of any report or account of proceedings (whether held in public or not), any evidence, or the name and particulars of any person.

At the conclusion of the hearing the tribunal will either deliver its decision or, and more usually, will reserve its judgment and issue a written decision in due course. Decisions will normally be issued within a few weeks, but complex cases can take a little longer.

In disciplinary charges the tribunal is required to be satisfied on the evidence it receives that the person charged has been shown to be guilty 'on the balance of probabilities'. That is not such a high standard as the criminal test of 'beyond reasonable doubt', but in general terms, requires the tribunal to be satisfied, having regard to the seriousness of the allegation, that it is more likely than not that the person charged has committed the acts or omissions charged.

If the proceedings being heard involve a disciplinary charge, and the person charged is found guilty, the tribunal will invite submissions on what the appropriate sanction should be, and hold a 'penalty' hearing where the parties may present submissions to the tribunal. The tribunal has a wide discretion as to orders it may make where a charge is proven.

Subject to any suppression orders in place see decisions of the tribunal.

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