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Friday, May 24, 2019

FAQ - Hearings

My case has been referred to a Hearing – what next?

Once we advise that a case is to proceed to Hearing, a date will be set as soon as practicable.  In accordance with the Dogs Victoria Regulations, parties will be notified of the date at least 10 days in advance of a Hearing.

It is important to note that depending upon the number of cases pending allocation to a Hearing at any given time, it may be some weeks before a date can be determined for your case.  However, we endeavour to bring on and conclude cases with least possible delay.

What exactly is a Hearing?

When prima facie a case to answer is established by the Investigations Committee, charges are recommended and forwarded to the Disciplinary Committee where the matter is subsequently listed for Hearing.

The role of the Disciplinary Panel is to hear the charges, evidence, any supporting witness statements/testimony to establish, on the balance of probability, whether or not the recommended charges are proven.

Once the matter has been heard, the Panel will reach determination on the night and provide details of the outcome directly to the Respondent.  Official notification will be issued in writing as soon as practicable after the Hearing.

Where will my Hearing be located and at which time of day will the Panel convene?

Dogs Victoria has two primary locations – KCC Park located at 655 Westernport Highway, Skye and the Bulla Complex.  Hearings are conducted in the evening, generally from 7pm.

Please be assured that Dogs Victoria, where possible, will make every effort to ensure your Hearing is scheduled at the location best served by the parties. For matters which cannot be scheduled in close proximity, a teleconference option can be made available.

Do I have to attend a Hearing?

A Respondent is required to attend a Hearing either in person or via teleconference.  Should a Respondent fail to attend a Hearing without reasonable excuse, the matter may be heard in absentia (i.e. in your absence):

Regulation 5.1.6 Where a member or representative of an Affiliate fails, without reasonable excuse, to attend a VCA inquiry, investigation or hearing the matter may proceed in their absence.

It is expected that a Complainant will also be in attendance to present their case.  While not mandatory, the Panel may find it difficult to reach resolution when testimony offered on the night cannot be corroborated or refuted.

When notification of Hearing date is issued, an attendance confirmation form will be included.  This allows each party to nominate preferred method of attendance.  The options are as follows:

  • Attend in person (preferred)
  • Attend via teleconference (and provide best contact number on the night)
  • Not willing to attend and provide agreement that the matter may be heard in absentia

With respect to Breeder Breach cases, should an individual opt to reject summary penalty and instead appear before a Tribunal, a teleconference option is usually offered in the first instance, with the right to attend in person if so desired.

Will I be informed who is on the Panel in advance of my Hearing?

Contact with the Disciplinary Committee prior to a hearing is prohibited as this may prejudice a case or lead to potential conflict.

Please be assured that any potential conflicts of interest are vetted by the Chair prior to appointment of a suitable Panel.

The names of Panel members are not notified to parties in advance of a Hearing.  The Chair will introduce the Panel Members on the night of the Hearing.

Can I bring a support person/witness(es)?

Parties to a case are responsible for conducting their own case:

Regulation 5.4.4 The Respondent and the Complainant shall conduct their own case but may be represented by friend or agent. The Respondent and the Complainant shall be responsible for arranging for their witnesses for their hearing. (15/10/10) (14/02/13)

Generally, one support person is permissible.  Only one advocate/representative is allowable (please see ‘Legal Representation’ below should your representative be a qualified legal professional).

Any relevant witness may be nominated, provided that you have sought agreement from said witness (i.e. a witness must be a willing participant).  A relevant witness is someone who is able to provide evidence which is substantive to the case (i.e. relating directly to the recommended charge/s.  For example, someone who witnessed the incident first hand or overheard a discussion relevant to the charge/s).  A support person may accompany a Respondent whose role is to alleviate stress and apprehension, providing a calming influence to the Respondent.  A support person is not formally involved in proceedings.

It is a requirement that any witnesses, an advocate or support person be notified in writing/via email to the Compliance Manager at least 48 business hours prior to a scheduled Hearing, with the exception of legal representation, which must be notified at least 10 days prior to a scheduled Hearing.

Legal Representation

Management Committee, at its meeting held 12 December 2018, has agreed that any party engaging legal counsel (i.e. a qualified legal professional) in accordance with Rule 2.20.8, is required to notify the office at least 10 days prior to a scheduled Hearing.

In view of this requirement, coupled with the fact that a Hearing date may only be notified to parties with a lead time of 10 days, it is highly recommended that legal representation be notified as soon as notice of progression to the Disciplinary Committee is given (i.e. at the time when the letter of advice to proceed to Disciplinary Committee and Charge Document is issued). 

Can I submit additional material after the Investigation has closed?

It is crucial that all relevant information/evidence is presented to the Investigations Committee during the course of the investigation, via the appointed investigator, once contact is made.  However, should it be the case that “new” evidence only becomes available post investigation, there will be further opportunity to make this available to the Disciplinary Committee.

Only relevant evidence will be considered – that is; evidence directly related to the recommended charge/s.  Information which is not substantive to the charges at hand should not be submitted.  Please be assured that parties will be given adequate opportunity to present their case on the night of the Hearing.

There are two methods for the submission of new (post investigation) evidence:

  1. Once the Hearing date is notified to parties, any new evidence which is directly relevant to the recommended charge/s is to be submitted as a single file to the Compliance Manager, who in turn, will ensure that this is forwarded to the Disciplinary Panel assigned to hear the case. Evidence is to be submitted at least 48 business hours­ prior to the scheduled Hearing to allow sufficient time for issue to the opposing party (i.e. all parties involved in the Hearing have a right to relevant evidence) and the Panel;
  2. Evidence can be presented on the night only where it has become available less than 48 business hours prior to the Hearing. Any evidence to be submitted on the night must be directly relevant to the recommended charge/s and must be provided in duplicate (i.e. two copies, one for the Panel and one for the opposing party).

FORMAT OF THE HEARING

Both Parties to the case are present: 

  1. Introduction - The Chair will introduce the Panel and the case at hand.
  2. Process explained – The Chair will outline the process the Hearing shall take
  3. Charges read – The Chair will read the charge/s – parties will have previously received a copy of the Charge Document from which these are read.
  4. Pleas are entered – The Chair will invite the Respondent to enter a plea for each recommended charge – e.g. “Guilty”, “Not Guilty” or “No Plea”
  5. Complainant’s Case – The Chair will request that the Complainant puts forward their case, calling on witnesses, if required
  6. Respondent’s Case – The Chair will request that the Respondent puts forward their case, calling on witnesses, if required
  7. After Case is Heard – Parties are asked to retire from the room or, if attending via teleconference, released from the call. At this point, the Complainant is free to leave the Hearing.
  8. Finding Determined – The finding will be provided to the Respondent on the night of the Hearing. Both parties will be notified of the outcome in writing as soon as practicable after the Hearing.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As this is a Hearing and not a Committee meeting, no formal Minutes are taken.  Only a confidential report to the Management Committee is produced and this is not accessible to parties in attendance, irrespective of appeal lodgement.  Parties are welcome to take their own notes, but may not record the Hearing.

Hearing Etiquette

At no time shall parties direct comments to one another.

All comments must be directed to the Chair.

No recording is permitted (Regulation 5.1.8)

Parties may take notes given there will be no formal Minutes for distribution.

Parties must remain respectful and courteous at all times.  Anyone behaving inappropriately will first be warned, but if the behaviour continues, will be asked to leave the Hearing and may be subject to further disciplinary action.

Formal Notification of Results

The Regulations allow seven days for the Disciplinary Committee to provide confidential reports to the Chief Executive.  These are not available to parties.  Typically, reports are available to the administration within a day or two where possible.

As soon as the confidential Hearing Report is forwarded to the administration, results are issued to parties in a formal communication from the Chief Executive.

All Hearing outcomes are publicised on the Dogs Victoria website and in the Gazette in accordance with Regulation 3.11.1, irrespective of any application of appeal.

Appeal Applications

Regulation 5.4.8 An appeal by the Respondent must be lodged in writing with the Chief Executive within seven days of receipt of the written advice of the findings of the Disciplinary Committee. The decision of the Disciplinary Committee remains in force until the appeal has been resolved.

To avoid the risk of missing pertinent information, a form is prescribed for the purposes of appeal lodgement.

Any Respondent wishing to appeal the findings or penalty is to contact the Compliance Department within the required period to request the appropriate form.

Please note the following Regulation of importance:

Regulation 5.5.1.3 The Appeals Committee shall not conduct a re hearing of a Disciplinary Hearing. The sole function of the Appeals Committee is to consider the grounds of appeal and any reasons or new evidence produced by the Respondent, or the Management Committee in the case of an appeal by the Management Committee. In the case of an appeal following a Disciplinary Hearing, new evidence means evidence that was not available at the Disciplinary Hearing.

IMPORTANT NOTE:   Please be aware that the Compliance Department is unable to engage in any communication relating to the CONTENT of a case.  The reason for this is that any such dialogue may be seen to prejudice a case.  The role of the Compliance Department is purely administrative, facilitating the progress of a case file through approved procedural channels.


Information current as at 7 May 2019