WGPlus (Archive)

Lawmakers must always be subject to the laws they make

The law that governs misconduct in public office is unclear, ambiguous and in need of reform, according to the Law Commission, independent law reform adviser to the Government.

More people than ever before are being accused of misconduct in public office, and recent years have seen a number of high-profile allegations, investigations & prosecutions of the offence.  But the existing law does not clearly define either what is meant by “misconduct” or who holds “public office”.

In a recently launched consultation, the Law Commission suggests that a new, clear statutory offence would remove ambiguity.  It proposes two forms such an offence might take and asks consultees whether either or both should be taken forward into legislation. They are:

•a breach of duty model, where the breach must lead to a risk of serious harm, and

•a corruption-based model, including the abuse of a position for personal advantage or to cause harm to another

The breach of duty offence would apply to public office holders whose positions carry powers of physical coercion such as arrest, detention or imprisonment, or have functions specifically relating to protecting vulnerable people from harm. The corruption-based model offence would apply to all holders of public office.  The consultation closes on 30 November 2016.

Researched Links:

LC: Reforming the offence of misconduct in public office