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a day in the life: insurance and public risk

9 May 2018

My first seat was in Insurance and Public Risk. I was very lucky to be split between the Technical Claims and Advocacy & Regulatory teams, giving me a lot of exposure to very different types of work.

As part of working with the Advocacy/Regulatory teams, I attended a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) hearing with one of our firm’s in house barristers, who was presenting the case against a teacher who had allegations of misconduct made against him.

TRA hearings take place before a panel who have to decide whether the facts of any allegations are proven and whether those proven allegations amount to misconduct. If such a finding is made the panel then go on to recommend to the Secretary of State for Education whether the teacher should be prohibited from teaching. This recommendation is then considered, along with the panel’s full decision, by an individual with delegated powers from the Secretary of State who makes the final decision on prohibition.

Witnesses are called to give evidence before the panel, and they can be asked questions by the panel, presenting officer and the teacher’s representative/teacher themselves if they attend in person (which this teacher did not). In this case, the panel found the allegations proven and recommended that the teacher be prohibited from teaching indefinitely; the Secretary of State agreed with this recommendation.

I attended this hearing as a witness supporter, which meant that I sat with a vulnerable student witness throughout the hearing and during breaks to make sure that she was comfortable and able to ask any procedural questions that she had at any point. I was not able to discuss the content of her evidence with her but I tried to give her reassurance and support in an emotionally stressful situation, as she was giving very sensitive evidence that she was a victim of the teacher’s actions.

I think that as a legal professional it is extremely important to be able to empathise with people on the other side of the proceedings, from victims to witnesses to those who are the subject of allegations. Understanding that many people find legal proceedings extremely stressful, and being able to offer support, reassurance and guidance where appropriate, is key to giving clients and members of the public confidence in who we are and what we do. I learned this first-hand from supporting this witness and hearing the worries and questions that she had.

TRA work was one of my favourite areas during this seat. I have always been really interested in criminal law and I found that the way that TRA investigations and hearings take place loosely parallels criminal proceedings. Evidence is gathered and weighed up, then evaluated taking into account public interest, mitigating and aggravating factors, in order that decision makers can decide whether there is a case to answer and what the outcome of that finding should be. This process is right up my street and I really learned a lot from being involved in the TRA investigations and hearings.

Seeing the entire process unfold at the hearing also gave me a deeper understanding of the many factors which are considered when coming to a decision with long-lasting consequences for the individual. Public interest, proportionality, and mitigating factors play an important part in the outcome, alongside factual evidence relating to the allegations themselves.

I highly recommend attending hearings like this if you ever have the chance!