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Professional Conduct Review Committee

Objective of the Professional Complaints Review Committee

The responsibility of Professional Complaints Review Committee (“PCRC”) is to support the maintaining of professional standards in Equine Facilitated Interactions through the handling of complaints raised by clients, service users, member of the public or other practitioners.


The PCRC will consist of no less than six people, one of whom is a senior member of the Athena Herd Foundation (Athena) team, and at least half of whom will be a lay persons with no active relationship to the activities of Athena.

The PCRC may convene by meeting in person and/or by remote means. The quorum for the PCRC will be three members, including the Chair.

Complaints received will be assigned to small sub-groups (3 individuals) of the PCRC for review and progress as appropriate , and to make propose. Where appropriate, specific knowledge or expertise will be engaged.

Separate sub-groups of uninvolved individuals, and/or the Chair, shall act as independent adjudicators with responsibility for reviewing findings and decisions. 

Functions of the Committee and the Proceedings test

The primary functions of the PCRC are as follows:

  • Determining whether the professional standards are being complied with when requested to do so by the registrar;
  • Following through and investigating complaints received by the Register;
  • Seeking further information or clarification from either party to a complaint as it considers appropriate in accordance with the obligation to objectively assess;
  • Deciding whether to impose an interim suspension on a practitioner;
  • Deciding whether the conditions of a “proceedings test” are met or whether a complaint should be dismissed, the tests being:
    1. the facts alleged would (if proven) amount to a failure to meet professional standards; and
    2. there is a realistic prospect that facts justifying a finding of such a failure will be proved; and 
    3. that it is in the public interest for the complaint to be dealt with by way of the Malpractice and Maladministration Policy;
  • Where it finds that the proceedings test is met, set out the formal allegations against the practitioner, determining whether allegations made are allegations of professional misconduct or poor practice;
  • Reviewing an interim suspension and lift the suspension following review, if appropriate;
  • Considering and determining whether a complaint should be resolved by means of consensual disposal;
  • Deciding upon whether the complaint can be dealt with as a practice review and assign an appropriately experienced practitioner to carry it out;
  • Deciding upon, and recommending sanctions on the practitioner as part of a consensual disposal agreement, or based upon the outcome of a practice review;
  • Deciding to proceed with a formal disciplinary hearing and the scheduling, organisation and hearing thereof

Applying the proceedings test

In applying the proceedings test (outlined above) the assigned PCRC sub-group will first consider the facts alleged and consider whether those facts if proved would amount to a failure to meet the professional standards. A realistic prospect of a finding of misconduct means that it is more likely than not to make a finding of a failure to meet the professional standards against the Practitioner.

If it decides that they would not, then the proceedings test is not met. It will also consider whether there is a realistic prospect that facts justifying a finding of such a failure will be proved.

The onus is on the complainant to prove their case, and not on the practitioner complained against to disprove the case. 

The PCRC sub-group must consider whether the complaint should be dealt with by way of the disciplinary hearing, practice review or consensual disposal, taking account of the wider public interest including the protection of the public and the need to maintain public confidence in the counselling professions.

The PCRC sub-group should take into account the practitioner’s explanations and representations. 

It is not the role of the PCRC to resolve substantial conflicts in the available evidence such as deciding which of a number of differing versions of events is the correct one.

The PCRC should only continue allegations that meet the proceedings test.

Decision Making

The PCRC sub-group will consider each case on its individual facts and discuss any issues that are raised and make decisions on a majority basis. It needs to consider objectively the facts and representations in light of the ethical codes/frameworks in effect during the period(s) of membership of the practitioner at the time(s) when the alleged breaches took place.

All decisions will be subject to independent adjudication. In practice this means that all proposals made by the PCRC sub-group (whether resulting from consensual disposal or a formal hearing). The final decisions will signed by a designated member of the PCRC, and all parties then advised accordingly. 

All decisions recommended by the PCRC will align to the conditions will align to the conditions of the Malpractice and Maladministration Policy and any subsequent recommended actions in-line with the Sanctions Policy.

Where appropriate, decisions will be published in accordance with the Register’s  Professional Conduct Publication Policy on the Professional Conduct Notices page.

Accepting complaints out of time

The Register must receive complaints within one month of the event you’re complaining about, unless there are good reasons are provided as to why it has taken longer.

The PCRC will consider the written explanation provided and decide as a preliminary issue, whether or not the time period for submitting the complaint should be extended.

What constitutes a ‘good and sufficient’ reason shall be solely at the discretion of the PCRC which may take advice from any person as it deems appropriate.

All written explanations will form part of the complaint submission and will be available to the Practitioner concerned.

Review and Standardisation

The PCRC shall also on a periodic basis review and report on the standardisation of process applied in the handling of service user complaints. Similarly to the sanctions applied to practitioners. Where appropriate we will also engage independent assessors to provide impartial insight and opinions in support of such reviews. 

Return to the Register’s home page.

VersionInitialsDescriptionVersion Date
1GGInitial DraftNovember 2022
GGUpdate to strengthen alignment to related policies and proceduresFebruary 2023