Heads of Complaint

Three Heads of Complaint

The Professional Conduct Panel is responsible for determining whether the grounds of the complaint are upheld according to the standards of civil law and, if upheld, the head(s) of complaint that have been contravened. It is envisaged that a single act may fall clearly under one head or contravene two or more. 

The decision about the head must ultimately rest upon consideration of all the circumstances in the case. The information that follows is intended to inform the choice between the three heads of complaint available to the panel. 

These are: 

  • Professional misconduct
  • Professional malpractice
  • Bringing the profession into disrepute

Findings under the first two heads are usually, but not exclusively, concerned with behaviour directly related to someone's professional pursuit. The third head may encompass a wider range of behaviour that extends beyond someone's professional pursuit. 

Professional Misconduct

A finding of professional misconduct signifies that the practitioner has contravened the ethical and behavioural standards that should reasonably be expected of a member of this profession. 'Misconduct' is defined as acting in contravention of the written and unwritten guidance of the profession and normally concerns relations with other members of PTUK or related professional bodies. 

A finding of 'serious professional misconduct' is appropriate if the misconduct is of sufficient seriousness to merit a period of suspension or permanent exclusion from membership of this Society with a consequential curtailment of opportunities to practise within this profession. 

Professional Malpractice

A finding of professional malpractice signifies that the service(s) to clients for which the practitioner is responsible, have fallen below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable care and skill. Examples of 'malpractice' include: Incompetence, negligence, recklessness, inadequate professional services. 

It may be that the seriousness of the malpractice is such that it is considered to amount to misconduct. This is determined by different, and usually higher, tests than the test of reasonableness in the tort of negligence. The Clerk to the proceedings will advise on the grounds for a finding of 'misconduct'. Care should be taken to avoid any confusion between 'negligence' and 'misconduct'.

A finding of 'serious professional malpractice' is appropriate if the malpractice is of sufficient seriousness to merit a period of suspension or permanent exclusion from membership of this Society with a consequential curtailment of opportunities to practise within this profession.

Bringing the Profession into Disrepute

A finding of 'bringing the profession into disrepute' signifies that the practitioner has acted in such an infamous or disgraceful way that the public's trust in the profession might reasonably be undermined if they were accurately informed about all the circumstances of the case. 

A finding under this head must amount to 'disgraceful conduct in a professional respect'. This involves consideration of three elements: 

  • Conduct that is regarded as 'disgraceful' need not amount to moral turpitude or be restricted to acts of serious immorality.
  • The conduct must have had some connection with a professional role in order to be considered as falling 'in a professional respect'. It ought not to be concerned with matters that can reasonably be viewed as solely personal and private.
  • Conduct 'in a professional respect' is not confined to conduct in pursuit of the profession in question.

For example disgraceful conduct in the UK Police Disciplinary Code has been defined as: 'committed when a member (of a police force) acts in a disorderly manner or in any manner prejudicial to discipline or reasonably likely to bring discredit on the reputation of the (force) or of the (police service)'.

What is not disgraceful to an ordinary person may be disgraceful to a professional person.

Criminal Convictions, Findings in Civil Proceedings and Hearings by Other Professional Bodies

PTUK may also exercise its discretion to take disciplinary proceedings against a member who is convicted of a criminal offence or who has civil or professional findings against them that ought to have been declared on entry into membership or arising during membership. 

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