Most professionals are subject to some form of registration with their professional regulator. Enforcement frequently begins with a written query from the regulator, to which a response needs to be considered with care, as it will frequently determine the subsequent course of proceedings.
With more serious matters, an interim hearing may be held to determine whether interim measures, including a suspension or restrictions, need to be imposed. The registrant may offer an undertaking.
Final hearings (Fitness to Practice) will usually involve witnesses called by the regulator and the registrant before a panel, commonly of three. Legal advice is provided to the panel either in the form of a Legal Advisor or by the Chair of the panel being legally qualified. These hearings will frequently involve applications on specific points of law, as well as submissions to the panel.
If impairment is found, further submissions will usually need to be made as to the form of sanction, which can range up to striking off from the professional register.
Such proceedings are normally highly stressful, as they touch directly on the registrant’s ability to earn a living. They are also frequently the culmination of several years of stress for the registrant leading up to the Fitness to Practice hearing.
Appeals from Fitness to Practice hearings are to the High Court. There are considerable costs risks when appealing to the High Court, as the Court will usually make an order for costs in favour of the regulator if the appeal is unsuccessful.