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GOC calls for views on standard of proof

23 Jan 2006

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General Optical Council Press Release – 23 January 2006

For immediate release

GOC calls for views on standard of proof

The General Optical Council is asking stakeholders and partners to comment on which standard of proof should be used to judge the truth of facts presented in its professional hearings.

Optical bodies, other regulators, and public and patient groups are among those being invited to say whether they think the civil or criminal standard should be used to decide whether a fact presented in a hearing has been proved or not. Criminal courts are usually directed to judge whether a fact has been proven ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Civil courts decide ‘on the balance of probabilities’, meaning a fact is deemed to be proven if they find it more likely to be true than not.

“The GOC has an open mind on this question,” explained deputy chairman Geoff Harris. “We recognise that the standard of proof is an important issue for both the public and the professions, so it’s essential that the basis for any decision is well-informed and inclusive.”

Changes to the Opticians Act last year created a new structure for hearings. Independent hearings panel members sit on the Fitness to Practise or Registration Appeals committees, to decide cases such as allegations of misconduct or deficient performance, applications for restoration and appeals against registration decisions. There is no explicit rule stating which standard of proof should be applied.

“This is the right time to be asking these questions,” said Dr Harris. “The GOC has led the way in introducing a fairer hearings process. We now need to be able to explain clearly what standard of proof we are using, and how we are balancing the interests and rights of the public and the professions. Regulators are under increasing scrutiny following the Shipman inquiry, and we will be well served by having a proactive stance on this issue.”

Questions raised in the consultation include:
• Should the Fitness to Practise and Registration Appeals Committees apply different standards of proof?
• Should the standard vary depending on the type or seriousness of the allegation being made?
• How would the use of a particular standard affect public protection and public confidence in the profession?

The consultation will be open until 31 March. Documents are available in the consultations section of this website.

Notes to editors:
The hearings panel comprises 39 independent members, with no policy-making role. Fitness to Practise and Registration Appeals Committees comprise three lay and two professional members from the panel.

About the GOC
The General Optical Council is the regulatory body for opticians in the UK. Its aims are to protect the public and to ensure high standards of professional conduct and education amongst opticians. All optometrists (ophthalmic opticians), and all dispensing opticians who fit contact lenses or who work with children or low vision patients, must be registered with the GOC to work in the UK. There are around 17,000 optometrists and dispensing opticians currently registered with the GOC.


For further information, please contact:

Kate Fielding
Communications Manager
General Optical Council
t: 020 7307 3472
m: 07763 210019
e: kfielding@optical.org

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