GOC publishes consultations on service of statutory notices by email, remote hearings, and indicative sanctions

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today launched three consultations on:

  • A new draft policy on the service of statutory notices by email:
  • An updated remote hearings protocol; and
  • An update to the hearings and indicative sanctions guidance.

Within GOC legislation, there are circumstances which require statutory notices to be issued; for example, when removing a registrant from the register, refusing to retain or restore a registrant to the register, an interim order hearing or substantive hearing, or following an appeal against the Registrar’s decision to refuse admission or restoration to the register.

The policy on how the GOC will serve statutory notices by email was developed following the introduction of the General Optical Council (Committee Constitution, Registration and Fitness to Practise) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Rules 2020, which allows the GOC to use email for this purpose with registrants’ consent.

Dionne Spence, GOC Director of Casework and Resolutions, said: “We are committed to serving statutory notices in a way that is fair to registrants and individuals and in line with the requirements of our legislation.  

At the start of the COVID-19 emergency in March 2020, we moved to a position of sending all notices by email to ensure we could comply with Government advice to work from home wherever possible and to mitigate the risk of the loss of personal data through our letters being left on doorsteps. In doing this, we acknowledged we were not fully compliant with our legislation in respect of obtaining written consent. In April 2021, as we moved out of the more restrictive lockdown measures we had been in, we made the decision to revert to our normal processes of serving notices by post unless we had written consent from the registrant or individual to serve notices by email.  

This draft policy sets out how we will obtain consent for serving notices by email, as well as the safeguards that we will apply once consent has been obtained.” 

The GOC has also reviewed and updated its remote hearings protocol which was introduced in July 2020 to support all parties attending remote hearings during the pandemic to understand the process and how it worked.

Dionne explained further: “We recognise that our remote hearings have worked well during the pandemic, offering flexibility and facilitating access to justice for participants. As we move forward, we want to continue to offer participants the choice of proceeding with some, or all of their hearings remotely, alongside more traditional face to face hearings and the protocol sets out how this will work.”

In addition, the GOC has updated its ‘Hearings and indicative sanctions guidance’ which was last updated in 2018 and assists members of the Fitness to Practise Committee (FtPC) to understand their individual and collective responsibilities, in order to make fair and just decisions on outcomes and sanctions.

All of the consultations seek feedback on the content, clarity and impacts of the policy, protocol and guidance, as well as whether there are any areas missing.

To respond to the consultations, visit the GOC Consultation Hub. The consultations will close on 22 September 2021.