The Scottish Social Services Council has successfully overturned a court ruling that the right to a fair hearing applies during social worker conduct proceedings.
The decision follows Dundee social worker Judy Smith’s appeal against the SSSC’s decision to strike her from the social work register in 2012.
As part of her appeal Smith argued that the regulator had breached her right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Before examining the details of Smith’s appeal, the court considered whether Article 6 applied to conduct hearings and ruled that it did.
But, following an appeal by the SSSC, that decision has been overturned by Sheriff Principal Alastair Dunlop.
Route of appeal
In his judgment, Dunlop said that conduct hearings do not have to meet every requirement of a fair trial and noted that “any unfairness in the [SSSC]’s proceedings can be corrected when subject to review by the sheriff in the appeal”.
The SSSC said that now its appeal against whether Article 6 applied had been won, Smith’s appeal against whether it was right to remove her from the register could be heard by the courts.
England’s social work regulator the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has also recently faced questions about whether the right to a fair trial applies to its conduct hearings.
A Law Commission report published last year raised concerns that the fitness to practise process might “allow the regulators’ procedural standards to fall short of those normally associated with [the right to a fair trial]”.