When police officers are dismissed for gross misconduct their victims often express relief. They think that the officers will:
- never serve in the police again
- have their details added to a publicly-searchable barred list to protect others.
But, in many cases, neither of these things are true. Here I show that there are ways for disgraced former officers to:
- avoid getting their details added to the barred list (or associated advisory list), or
- to get off the lists and back into policing.
What is the police barred list?
The barred list came into effect under The Police Barred list and Police Advisory list Regulations (2017).
The list shows:
people who have been dismissed from policing through the Police Conduct and Performance Regulations.
The following people can have their details added to the Barred list:
- police officers
- special constables
- police community support officers
- police staff.
Once added, they are not eligible for employment by:
- police forces in England and Wales
- offices of Police and Crime Commissioners
- Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire & Rescue Services
- the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Who is responsible for the barred list?
The barred list is maintained by the College of Policing, which describes itself as:
a professional body for everyone working across policing. It is an operationally independent arm’s-length body of the Home Office.
As well as the barred list, the College of Policing also maintains an advisory list.
What is the Police Advisory List?
The police advisory list is just as important as the barred list. It is:
a list of all officers, special constables and staff members who have resigned or retired during an investigation or who leave before an allegation comes to light. It also includes designated volunteers who have had their designated status withdrawn because of conduct or performance matters.
Section 88I of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 allows for:
- police officers
- special constables
- community support or policing support volunteers
- civilian employees
to have their details added to the advisory list.
What you should know about the barred and advisory lists
1. The barred list
You can search the public barred list here. But you might be wasting your time because there are many exceptions.
It is important to note that the Regulations only apply if police force members are dismissed after an investigation under the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 or Police (Performance) Regulations 2012.
And the public barred list:
- only includes police officers and special constables
- does not include PCSOs or police staff
- holds information on the public list for five years only
- is updated monthly, with names added by the end of the following month after dismissal
- has exemptions for “national security, ongoing investigations and any significant harm which may be caused to the individual or others.”
These exceptions mean that the College of Policing’s “Search the barred list” website page is lacking, perhaps on purpose:
2. The advisory list
The barred list is incomplete, but at least we can see it.
The advisory list is private, with no public access.
This means that former police staff can avoid having their details made public by resigning or retiring at any time before disciplinary proceedings are brought or concluded.
Misconduct proceedings take time to investigate, prepare, and deal with. I have represented clients in civil actions against the police for over 20 years. In my experience, officers frequently quit before disciplinary and misconduct hearings. That way they avoid appearing on the publicly-searchable barred list.
3. Both lists
Former police officers who are dismissed after a misconduct hearing can ask for anonymity when their details are added to the lists.
As this report in The Guardian shows, an officer who was found guilty of gross misconduct for racist comments:
would have been dismissed had he not resigned from the force.
The officer did not bother to attend the hearing. Instead, he:
instructed his Police Federation representative, Moray Anderson, to say the proceedings infringed his right to a private life under article eight of the Human Rights Act.
Anderson asked for Sgt X not to be named on the barred list to avoid the “public shame” this would lead to.
The Disciplinary Panel was swayed despite its serious finding and the former officer’s apparent contempt for the proceedings. Sergeant X was granted anonymity and his details will be kept private by the College of Policing.
4. Removal from the barred and advisory lists
This can happen in three ways:
a) Automatic removal from the barred list
Regulation 8 of The Police Barred list and Police Advisory list Regulations 2017 says that certain people must have their details removed from the barred list automatically if:
- the person on the barred list was dismissed and had their details added to the list for “unsatisfactory performance (not amounting to gross incompetence) or unsatisfactory attendance”, and
- they were on the list for at least 12 months, or
- they die.
b) Automatic removal of details from the advisory list
Former officers who resigned or retired before dismissal will get their details removed automatically from the advisory list if:
- their details were added for issues other than conduct, and
- they were on the list for at least five years, or
- they die.
c) Discretionary removal of details from the barred and advisory lists
Former officers, special constables, PCSOs, and police staff can apply to the College of Policing to have their names removed from the barred list after:
- three years for performance matters
- five years for conduct matters.
(The time period is five years for those on the advisory list.)
The removal process is flawed because the College of Policing:
will not review the reasons for the original dismissal, and will only consider whether it is proportionate for the individual to remain on the barred list.
Instead, the College of Policing says the process involves:
taking into account a number of factors, including:
- whether the individual has demonstrated their suitability to return to policing
- the circumstances which led to the original decision/finding
- the impact removing an individual’s barred status might have on public confidence in the police.
Barred and advisory list confusion
Perhaps understandably, some journalists reporting on policing issues do not seem to know how the barred and advisory lists work. Neither do the police, which is less forgivable.
For example, as this news report wrongly says:
A former West Midlands Police worker who was convicted of conspiring to supply drugs while off duty will never work in policing again, the force has said.
In that case Cherelle Ying, a former West Midlands Police officer, was convicted of conspiring to supply drugs. She resigned before being fired for gross misconduct. Her details were added to “a barred list” (which was probably the advisory list). The article’s writer said:
West Midlands Police confirmed she has also been placed on a barred list – meaning she will be unable to work in policing again.
I expect the reporter was quoting West Midlands Police’s own write-up, which says:
Ying resigned from the force in February this year ahead of a disciplinary panel on 8 April which found that Ying’s action amounted to gross misconduct and, had she not resigned, she would have been dismissed. She has also been placed on a barred list meaning she will be unable to work in policing again.
While it is very unlikely that Ms Ying will be re-admitted to the police, it is not an absolute as stated above. She could get back in if she can convince the College of Policing review panel and pass force vetting procedures.
Consequences for the public
These days, most companies conduct due diligence before hiring former police and staff. This includes internet searches. But they only work if the applicant’s misdeeds are published online.
Some police officers and staff get anonymity in disciplinary and misconduct hearings. And the failings of the barred and advisory lists mean that they can easily avoid negative publicity. Their reputations and employment prospects are unharmed.
Contrast that with people whose details are added to the Disclosure and Barring Service. As our clients Lisa McCullough and James Williams found, even the threat of being added to the DBS check list was frightening because it could end their careers in disgrace.
Eventually, some former officers and staff will get another police job. The government is committed to hiring 20,000 new officers by 2023. Recruiting is hard. Forces are under pressure to meet the target.
A former officer who convinces the College of Policing to remove their details from the barred or advisory lists would probably have better prospects than a rookie. All they need to do is wait out the three (or five) year period before applying. Because the Regulations took effect on 15 December 2017, some may have already done so.
The fact that former officers found guilty of gross misconduct can get back into policing means It is only a matter of time before their victims might see them in a uniform again. Situations like the one my colleague Daniel Fitzsimmons described here (Should a Criminal Conviction Prevent a Police Officer From Serving?) are even more likely.
The trauma for victims of police misconduct could be devastating.
And the failings of the barred and advisory lists undermine public confidence in the police.
Kevin Donoghue is the solicitor director of Donoghue Solicitors. Contact him here.