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Media briefing on criminal prosecutions

What is this briefing about, and who is it for?
This briefing is for journalists and other third parties who have questions about any criminal prosecution case(s) that the GOC might be investigating. We are frequently asked to comment on, or clarify details in relation to, current criminal investigations by the media and/or other third parties.

This briefing explains how we can help with enquiries, and why we may not be able to answer certain questions about a specific case.

Who are we?
The General Optical Council (GOC) is the regulatory body for optometrists, dispensing opticians and optical businesses in the UK. By law, optometrists and dispensing opticians must be registered with us in order to practise.

What is our role?
It is our duty to protect the public. To do this, part of our role is to investigate when someone has potentially broken the law by committing a criminal offence.

What criminal offences do we investigate?
We investigate eight types of criminal offences:

  • Testing sight when not registered
  • Fitting contact lenses when not registered 
  • Selling glasses to patients who are under 16, registered blind or partially sighted, whilst unregistered (or without necessary supervision for students)
  • Selling contact lenses (cosmetic and powered) without being a registered optometrist , dispensing optician or doctor. Or without being supervised by a registrant (see note 2 below)
  • Falsely implying or claiming to be an optometrist or dispensing optician when not registered

The investigation process
When we deal with a complaint about someone who may be breaking the law, where necessary we will gather evidence to be examined thoroughly by a Court. The Court will have all the relevant facts, and they will examine each case using rules which are fair to everyone involved.

How we can help
We aim to help journalists and other third parties with their enquiries wherever we can. The investigations process is built on principles of fairness. If we were to comment on a case whilst it is still being investigated, and before the proper legal assessment of evidence has taken place, our actions could undermine the investigation process.

Comments and speculation in the press or elsewhere may influence the outcome of a case. For that reason we will resist any pressure to respond to media enquiries of a specific nature, choosing instead to act fairly and in the interests of the registrant, the complainant, and the public as appropriate.

What can’t we comment on?
During the course of any investigation it is inappropriate for us to:

  • Discuss individual cases in any way
  • Comment on whether an investigation is currently in progress or pending
  • Confirm or deny that we are investigating a particular individual, company, or outlet. 
  • We only ever correspond with those who are the subject of an investigation through formal channels (either our Fitness to Practise team or through solicitors). It is inappropriate for us to enter into any correspondence through the media or other channels

How do we publish the outcome of a criminal prosecution?
If we decide to bring a criminal prosecution, and if it is in the public interest to do so, we will issue a press statement at the relevant time.

How many criminal prosecution cases are we dealing with?
Please contact the communications department for recent statistics.

Further information
Our Protocol for the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences is published here

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact:
Simon Grier
Communications Manager
General Optical Council
t: 020 7307 3478
e: sgrier@optical.org 
 
Notes for editors:
1. Our powers are set out in the Opticians Act. You can view the legislation in full here.

2. Some types of glasses and prescription contact lenses can be sold without the supervision of a registered optometrist or dispensing optician. Please refer to Part 4 of the Opticians Act 1989 and Article 3 of the Sale of Optical Appliances Order of Council.
 

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