Review evidence presented against you
Prior to the Hearing with the Fitness to Practice Panel, you should be provided with notification within between 15 and 25 working days’ notice. The notification will include;
- Details of the Hearing’s location, date and time
- The membership of the Panel
- The precise nature of the case and an outline of evidence for it (the evidence itself will always be provided to you within 2 weeks prior to the Hearing)
- Your rights, including your right to be accompanied and access independence advice i.e. Sunderland Students’ Union’s advice service
We would usually expect witness statements made in connection with the investigation to be shared with you, including the identity of those making those statements.
You should review this information, and prepare responses and/or evidence to points raised against you.
Remember that the purpose of the hearing is to investigate and so the information and evidence you have so far received may not be full picture; you will need to present your points and evidence.
You should try to consider the evidence as raised in good faith unless you have strong reason to suspect it has been raised maliciously against you. This means assuming that it is more likely the allegations or concerns come from a well-meaning or genuine place, for example;
- You may have been misheard or misunderstood by someone else who was genuinely concerned
- You may not have realised how a comment or action was taken by another
- Others might see an issue with your actions/behaviour that you do not recognise as an issue
- You may have been misidentified by those who raised concerns
Provide evidence and details of witnesses in advance
If you have any evidence (in any form) and intend to bring witnesses with you, you should inform the panel as soon as possible and within at least 5 working days of the hearing.
New written evidence will likely not be accepted on the day of the hearing.
Drafting your response
Your response can be provided in writing to the Panel, or may be your own notes for use in the meeting. We recommend you write down your responses and thoughts prior to the hearing so you can be confident that you have raised everything you wish to do so before the conclusion of the investigation.
You should try to anticipate possible questions the Panel might have when considering your response. An advisor from Sunderland Students’ Union is well placed to help you consider possible questions and your response in advance of the hearing. They can discuss with you your response and the evidence you are planning to provide, as well as how you might best frame your response so it is as strong as possible.
The Advisor can also help you review the evidence raised against you and help you better understand the nature of the allegations if any of it is unclear.
If you believe circumstances which are exceptional, outside your control, and that have prevented you conducting yourself in an appropriate manner, then you should consider raising this in your response or at the meeting with the Investigating officer.
However you should note that highlighting such circumstances does not dissolve you of responsibility if you have not conducted yourself in an appropriate manner, rather this is an opportunity for you and the university to consider if there any support you might need.
Disclosure or concerns of mental health issues, or other health issues as mitigation may raise concerns about fitness to practice in and of itself. It is important that students have the self-awareness to identify when their fitness to practice is compromised by ill health and take action accordingly; in professional practice we would normally expect staff to take action such as undergoing treatment, putting strategies in place, keeping line managers informed and/or taking leave from practise whether short or long term.
University disciplinary regulations describes Substance misuse, including alcohol and drugs, as something that is explicitly not mitigation and can, in some circumstances, be considered an aggravating factor. We would typically expect Fitness to Practice processes to take a similar view.
Inform the Panel in advance of the meeting if you have any reasonable adjustments due to disability or ill health.