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HFHR’s opinion on proposed reform of disciplinary proceedings in uniformed services

The HFHR has sent a legal opinion for the Senate on a bill amending the Police Act and certain other acts. The bill intends to change the rules that apply to the reinstatement of disciplinary proceedings in uniformed services, a reform that the HFHR has been long calling for.

No uniform provisions

According to the current wording of the Police Act, a disciplinary ruling becomes irrevocable after five years from the day on which it became final. Similar restrictions are in place in the laws that determine the status of officers of other uniformed services. For example, the time-limit for the reinstatement of disciplinary proceedings in the Internal Security Agency is even shorter (three years).

No coming back for acquitted

The existing measures lead to many unfair situations, an excellent example of which is one of the cases worked by the Strategic Litigation Programme. The case in question involved a police officer dismissed on disciplinary grounds who was acquitted on all counts by a court after a decade of legal proceedings. However, the expiry of the five-year period prevented the reinstatement of the disciplinary proceedings once brought against the officer and, effectively, deprived him of a chance to come back to duty.

In June 2016, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that such a restriction was constitutional. Despite this ruling, in December 2016, the HFHR helped the expelled police officer to submit an application to the ECtHR. The Foundation asked the Commissioner for Human Rights for challenging the discussed provisions before the Constitutional Tribunal, and filed a petition to the Senate, requesting the making of appropriate legislative changes. A similar petition was submitted by the former police officer dishonourably dismissed from service based on baseless criminal charges.

Senate’s works on amendment

In spring, the Senate’s Rule of Law, Human Rights and Petition Committee examined the former petition and recommended a legislative action in this respect. The Legislation Bureau of the Senate’s Chancellery drafted a bill that seeks to change the rules of reinstating disciplinary proceedings in uniformed services. According to an explanatory memorandum appended to the bill, it embraces not only the proposals made by the author of the individual petition but also those put forward by the HFHR.

Good changes

The principal change introduced in the discussed bill is the abolishment of all time-limits for the reinstatement of disciplinary proceedings that are likely to improve the situation of disciplined officers. Moreover, if an unreasonable disciplinary ruling is revoked, an officer unfairly dismissed will be able to request re-entry to service. The transitional provisions of the bill state that the reinstatement of disciplinary proceedings can be requested also by officers who had been disciplined and later acquitted in criminal proceedings before the new law’s entry into force. The new rules are to apply to all personnel of uniformed services.

In its opinion, the HFHR presented the unequivocally positive assessment of the bill which incorporates the measures presented in the Foundation’s petition.

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