Misconduct in Public Office

Misconduct in Public Office

Misconduct in public office is a criminal offence under English law that applies to public officials who abuse their position in a way that breaches the public's trust in them. The offence is not defined by statute, but has developed through case law such as Attorney General's Reference (No 3 of 2003) (2004).

To prove the offence of misconduct in public office, the prosecution must establish three elements:
  1. The accused was a public official: This includes anyone who holds public office, including elected officials, police officers, civil servants, and other public servants.
  2. The accused wilfully neglected to perform his duty or wilfully misconducted himself: The accused must have deliberately and knowingly breached the duty that he owed to the public in his official capacity. This can include acts of commission or omission, but must involve a serious breach of duty.
  3. The accused's conduct amounted to an abuse of the public's trust in him: The accused's actions must be serious enough to undermine the public's trust in the individual and the public institution he represents.

Misconduct in public office is a serious offence that can carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The offence is reserved for cases where the breach of duty is particularly serious and represents a significant departure from the standards expected of a public official.
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