GOC launches consultation on new approach to illegal practice

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today launched a consultation on a revised illegal practice strategy and protocol which will enable it to be more proactive in its approach and provide clarity on when it will take action and what action will be taken. 

Illegal optical practice is conduct that amounts to a criminal offence under Part IV of the Opticians Act 1989. The GOC’s mission is to protect the public and, although not a specific statutory duty, it may act on reports about alleged illegal practice when necessary to protect the public.

The GOC’s current approach is reactive to complaints received and the strategy and protocol were last reviewed in 2015. The main changes being proposed are:

    • The addition of criteria to assess complaints (called ‘acceptance criteria’) so that only complaints about an alleged offence under the Act are accepted and matters outside of the scope are referred elsewhere at an early stage;

    • Setting out the approach to illegal online sales to be more proactive by building relationships with online platforms who may have the power to stop and eventually prevent illegal sales from occurring;      

    • Requiring early lawyer input into investigations, where necessary, so that any evidence gained during an investigation is admissible evidence as part of a prosecution;

    • The introduction of a process for test purchases to obtain evidence of an illegal sale in cases where the GOC suspects illegal sales are continuing after a cease-and-desist letter has been sent, and the evidential and public interest tests are met; and

    • Greater clarity on when the GOC will consider a prosecution by outlining the specific factors it will assess. 

GOC Director of Casework and Resolutions, Dionne Spence, said: “We really hope the revised strategy and protocol will provide clarity and raise awareness about our remit and about when we can bring prosecutions and when alternatives to prosecution will be the preferred route. 

We believe that more collaborative working to prevent illegal practice from occurring will provide the best outcome for the public and our sector. We encourage our stakeholders to respond to the consultation before we implement the revised approach early next year.”

The consultation is hosted on the GOC consultation hub and closes on 19 January 2022.