The ICAEW Tribunals Committee has a minimum of 14 members, of whom at least half must be lay members. Members are appointed for a term of three years which may be renewed once, with a further option for extension for one additional term. The requirements of the constitution of the committee are set out in Schedule 2 to the disciplinary bye-laws. In addition, the committee has Terms of Reference and the power to make its own regulations.
The primary function of the Tribunals Committee is to consider all formal allegations referred to it in accordance with the disciplinary bye-laws. Members of the committee are allocated to panels to consider formal allegations about an individual member / member firm / affiliate, or any other relevant person as set out in the Investigation and Disciplinary Regulations. Panels are formed of three committee members, two of whom must be ‘lay’ and one an ICAEW member. At present, the chair of the panel is a lay member. Legal advice is given to the panel by a legal assessor (solicitor or barrister experienced in regulatory matters). The role of a legal assessor is to provide independent advice on the law. They are not involved in the committee’s decision making.
Operation of the committee
The main function of the committee is to supply members to sit on the Tribunal Committee panels, which are required to be constituted of three panel members. All members of the committee meet only once a year; at their AGM. Members also meet more informally at training sessions.
Tribunal Committee panels sit over a day or several days to hear evidence and submissions in relation to the formal allegations against a member/member firm. The format of hearings is set out in the Investigation and Disciplinary Regulations and is like the format that is adopted in civil and criminal proceedings, although less formal. Regulatory law is a well-established area and the hearings before panels of the ICAEW Tribunals Committee have much in common with tribunals run by other regulatory bodies, such as the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), GMC (General Medical Council) and NMC. (Nursing and Midwifery Council).
Tribunal Committee panels may be asked to decide on preliminary issues, such as admissibility of evidence, whether a hearing should be held in public or whether a hearing should be adjourned. They will also have to ensure that their decisions follow the relevant regulations and bye-laws and adhere to Human Rights provisions. Decisions of a Tribunal Committee panel are appealable and such appeals will be considered by a panel of the Appeal Committee.
Decisions of a Tribunal Committee panel are reached after hearing evidence and submissions by both parties in relation to the complaint(s) before them. Decisions are reached on a majority basis, and the decision is reduced to writing in a ‘record of decision’ which will be sent to the member after the hearing. The record of decision is drafted by the legal assessor, after discussion with the panel members. The record is then approved by the panel members before being sent to the parties.