The Importance of Contrition in Disciplinary Jurisdictions

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
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Sadly in recent times, a significant volume of public attention in the sporting arena has revolved around disciplinary proceedings and issues relating to professional conduct.

Yet like sportspeople, those who hold trade licences and work as practitioners in building and construction are occasionally confronted with the unfortunate prospect of disciplinary proceedings.

All too often when this happens, respondents refuse to acknowledge mistakes, fearing doing so would jeopardise their defence – even in cases where there is a prima facie case to answer. Some go so far as to become pugilistic and confrontational, even to the point of engaging in filibusters and other forms of conduct, which frustrates the proceedings.

This is mistaken and wrong. Prosecutions are not bought on lightly and will rarely be initiated without what the prosecutor feels is compelling evidence, irrespective of any acknowledgement of guilt or otherwise. Moreover, a considerable volume of case law encourages arbiters to take cooperation and early pleas into account during sentencing, meaning that forthright and up-front disclosure about any mistakes may well attract a lighter penalty compared with the alternative.

As for being confrontational, forget it. Have you ever seen an umpire or referee in a sporting contest change his call because of abuse from players or supporters? No – he or she is the decision maker; no volume of carry-on will change his or her mind. Likewise, in building practitioner disciplinary proceedings, hostility toward the arbiter – the one who has the final say – achieves nothing other than to put him or her off side.

By and large, the law rewards early pleas and, where appropriate, an attitude of contrition. When occupational licences are on the line, it is more often than not best to cooperate with the process and be forthright about any mistakes which have been made.

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