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In this section, we explain more about what happens if the case needs to be considered by the Tribunals Committee at a hearing. Find out more about the hearing arrangements the hearing scheduling process and what happens on the day.

About the hearing

Our Tribunals Committee hears formal allegations against ICAEW members, firms, affiliates, or students, referred to as the subject of the allegation. The process is like that of a court, but less formal. We have a team of lawyers, referred to as conduct counsel, who will take over the case if it goes to a Tribunal Committee hearing.

The common procedure at ICAEW is for panels to hear evidence and submissions on what has been alleged, whether the matter breaches the relevant regulations and therefore whether the subject of the allegation is liable to disciplinary action.

Hearings take place either online via video conferencing facilities or in person in central London at the International Dispute Resolution Centre. They are normally open to the public, unless a decision has been made at an earlier case management hearing that the matter should be heard wholly or partly in private.

We will only ask you to attend a hearing if we need you to give your evidence in person to support the case. We will reimburse all reasonable travel expenses.

By hearing your evidence first-hand and asking you questions about your account, the Tribunals Committee panel can gain a better understanding of the issues. The subject of the allegation or their legal representative (if they have one) may also ask questions about your account. This is a vital part of a fair and thorough hearing, and your evidence will help us to fulfil our duty to protect the public interest.

The chair of the Tribunals Committee panel and the committees and tribunals officer will do their best to help you participate fully during the hearing. If you need any further support attending the hearing, or you are reluctant to attend, please let the case manager, conduct counsel or the committees and tribunals officer (depending upon what stage the matter is at) know, at the earliest opportunity before the hearing. They will explore the issues and your concerns and talk to you about what options and support are available.

Scheduling the hearing

Once we know that you will need to give evidence at a hearing, we will ask you about your availability to attend. The committees and tribunals officer will take your availability into account when scheduling the hearing.

Once you have provided details of your availability, you should keep those days free until you are notified of the exact hearing date. We appreciate that you are giving up your time to attend a hearing. However, if a witness does not attend, or has become unavailable, it could cause the hearing to adjourn for several months. If something important or urgent arises which may affect your ability to attend, please contact the committees and tribunals officer as soon as possible.

At this point, we can also discuss any special measures that have been agreed or any reasonable adjustments that would help you to give your account.

Preparing for the hearing

Approximately four weeks before the hearing, we will contact you to confirm the exact date and time of your attendance. We will:

  • ask you about your travel, accommodation and any other needs;
  • assist and/or give guidance with respect to any bookings, if necessary (for example, give guidance as to hotels etc near the venue); and
  • explain what expenses you can claim, and how to do so.
The hearing will take place at:

The International Dispute Resolution Centre, 1 Paternoster Lane, St. Paul's, London, EC4M 7BQ.

On arrival at the hearing centre, please go to the reception and the committees and tribunals officer will show you to the witness waiting room. You will also be introduced to the conduct counsel presenting the Conduct Department's case.

There will be a separate waiting area for witnesses and we will implement processes to reduce the likelihood of you meeting the subject of the allegation. However, we must warn you that there is still a small chance that you may see them in public areas of the building and, of course, they will be present in the hearing room when you give your evidence.

We will try to minimise the time you have to wait before giving evidence. There will also be breaks in the hearing for various reasons, but we will keep you updated as much as possible. We will let you know when you are able to pop out to get some food or fresh air.

Please do not discuss the case or your evidence with anyone else while waiting. This could compromise the case and affect the outcome of the hearing, which must be conducted in a fair manner for all parties involved.

When it is your turn to give evidence, the committees and tribunals officer will collect you and take you into the hearing room.

Giving your evidence

Firstly, the conduct counsel will take you through your statement and ask you further questions. After this, the subject of the allegation or their representative will have an opportunity to ask you questions. The conduct counsel may then ask you further questions. Finally, members of the Tribunals Committee (ie, the panel) will also have an opportunity to ask you questions to clarify your evidence before you are excused.

Who will be in the room?

The panel: the three members of the Tribunals Committee who are independent from the ICAEW. They are solely responsible for making the decisions. The panel is made up of:

  • Panel chair: the panel member who leads the
  • Lay member: a panel member who is not a member of ICAEW or any other accountancy
  • Accountant member: a panel member who is a registered member of

The subject of the allegation: the ICAEW member; affiliate; student; or partner(s)/director(s) of the ICAEW member firm, about whom a concern has been raised.

Committees and tribunals officer: a staff member of ICAEW who facilitates the hearing and supports all parties.

Legal assessor: a lawyer who gives advice on matters of law and procedure. They are independent from the panel and do not take part in the decision making, but assist the panel in drafting its decision.

Conduct counsel: The person who presents the case on behalf of the ICAEW Conduct Department.

Shorthand writer: If the hearing is in person, a verbatim transcript of the hearing is produced by a shorthand writer who is also present at the hearing.

Members of the public/observers: Hearings are usually held in public which means that member of the public (including the press) can attend. Information heard in public may result in reports in the media. Sometimes all or part of a hearing is held in private due to the personal and confidential information that may need to be shared with the panel. The public are not allowed to be present at a private hearing.

Tips for giving evidence:
Giving evidence is not a memory test. If you have made a witness statement and it has been submitted to the panel, you will have a copy of this statement ahead of the hearing and it will also be available in the hearing room.
Take your time to think about the questions being asked if you need to.
If you do not understand a question or do not know the answer, you should tell the panel.
Direct your answers to the panel, not the person asking you questions.
Try to speak slowly and clearly when giving evidence so that everyone can hear you and the panel has an opportunity to note down what you say.

After you are excused, the committees and tribunals officer will escort you back to the waiting room and explain what will happen next. You will be provided with an 'expenses claim form' before you leave. If you are not able to speak with us before you leave for the day, we will be in touch shortly after. If you wish to stay to watch the rest of the hearing, please let the committees and tribunals officer know and they will show you where to sit. If you choose to attend the hearing on days you are not giving evidence, you will need to meet your own expenses. Please note that you cannot observe a hearing before you give your evidence, as this may affect your account.

After the hearing

We will contact you to let you know the outcome of the hearing. The decision will also be published on ICAEW's website. If there is no appeal, the decision will also be uploaded on our searchable Disciplinary Database.

Without your help, we would not be able to fulfil our duty to protect the public interest. To aid us in improving the service we provide for witnesses, we will invite you to give us feedback and comments about your experience as a witness via a quick online survey.

If you have not received a link to the survey, please let the committees and tribunals officer know.

How long is the investigation process for each case?

We aim to conclude most cases within 18 months, including a final hearing, if one is required. Sometimes cases may take longer due to the number of cases we are investigating or if we have problems getting the evidence we need. We will keep you up to date with any developments in the case as regularly as possible and you can speak to the case manager if you have any concerns, but we also need your help to make sure we can finish our investigation as quickly as possible.

The ICAEW Guide for Witnesses

Download the guide to understand the investigation and hearing processes, what to expect as a witness and what support is available.