Review evidence presented against you
Prior to meeting with the Investigating Officer, with information so that the allegations are clear, with dates and specific detail of the issue, so that all concerned, can understand precisely what is alleged. You should review this information, and prepare responses and/or evidence to points raised against you.
Whilst there is no guidance on the handling of witness statements within fitness to practice regulations, in order to make allegations clear we would usually expect witness statements made in connection with the investigation are shared with you, including the identity of those making those statements.
Remember that the purpose of the meeting 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
Drafting your response
Your response can be provided in writing to the Investigating Officer, or may be your own notes for use in the meeting. We recommend you write down your responses and thoughts prior to a meeting 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 Investigating Officer 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 meeting. 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 practise in and of itself. It is important that students have the self-awareness to identify when their fitness to practise 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 Investigating officer in advance of the meeting if you have any reasonable adjustments due to disability or ill health.