It would be churlish to say that the English ICA’s decision to review its disciplinary procedures is overdue. Churlish but true. As the professions in general have sunk in public estimation, the need for an overhaul has been growing steadily. Nevertheless the current leadership of the institute is to be praised for having taken the plunge.
The object of the review must be justice and the need for it to be seen to be done. Faith in the justice of the current system has been harmed in the eyes of members just as much as in the eyes of the public. The Tim Smith affair highlighted the need to impose adequate penalties but many members, particularly small practitioners, feel that the disciplinary process too often takes a sledgehammer to a peanut. The need for change is clear and the review must not end in the endorsement of the status quo.
As important as the outcome is that the review should be a beginning, not an end in itself. By deciding to look at how it disciplines its members, the institute begs the much bigger question of how it can combine the role of regulator with that of membership organisation. This question, common to all the CCAB bodies, goes to the heart of self-regulation. How can a single organisation simultaneously defend its members and police them? The ICA has shown courage in coming this far. It should now be braver still and ask itself whether it should continue to try to reconcile what looks increasingly like the irreconcilable.
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