Two bites of the apple- limitation in professional negligence cases
We are well into the Christmas party season, where good cheer and high-jinx abounds and the wine flows freely. Regulated professionals – doctors, accountants, conveyancers, architects - the list goes on - should think twice before letting their hair down too far. New Home Office guidance means that even an arrest (when no further action is taken) by the police may result in your regulatory body (the General Medical Council (GMC), Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Council for Licensed Conveyances (CLC) or Architects Registration Board (ARB), using the examples above) being informed. Regulators may well decide to take action against your registration for the conduct that resulted in your arrest, even if you were not charged or given a caution or fixed penalty notice.
As a professional, you are expected to conduct yourself appropriately in your personal life as well as in your professional life. A drunken row in the street (a possible public order offence) or forgetting to pay for your taxi (most likely, theft) may bring you to the attention of the police and in turn, your regulator. Regulators have a large amount of discretion when it comes to how to deal with indiscretions of their members; they will look at the conduct itself as well as the criminal outcome. If you accept a police caution, a penalty notice for disorder (PND) or even if the police take no further action against you, your regulator may still consider the underlying conduct to be unacceptable and commence an investigation into your fitness to practise.
There is no substitute for staying out of trouble, for restrained fun within the parameters of the law. But where things get a little out of hand and the police become involved, professionals should think beyond simply getting out of the police station and taking whatever disposal is offered; career long consequences may flow and legal advice is essential.
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