POLICE have agreed to a formal review of their disciplinary proceedings in the wake of criticism the process is unfair. Senior Assistant Commissioner (Personnel and Training) Tony Mullins confirmed a major study was being conducted to determine if the proceedings could be improved by making them open or providing the option of legal representation. Mr Mullins said it would be premature to predict the review's outcome. However, it is known a review of staff regulations has been finished, cleaning up ambiguous language and clarifying procedures during proceedings. The Security Branch is now examining the recommended changes. The Local Inspectors' Association and the Junior Police Officers' Association, by far the most powerful of the force's four staff bodies, have long championed for major changes. Their cause has recently been taken up by the Legislative Council's security panel, which believes greater transparency in hearings is desirable. These include legal representation in serious matters in which dismissal may be considered a likely punishment. They have also lobbied for open hearings, loosely based on the Medical Council model, and for proper transcripts to be maintained of the proceedings to ensure justice. A police spokesman said the review of disciplinary hearings and procedures had been divided into three categories. The prospect of open hearings and professional legal representation was also being entertained. 'Both issues have been raised because doubts have been expressed on the impartiality of current procedures,' the spokesman said. 'This review is still ongoing and involves several practical and legal aspects. 'Force management takes a serious and open-minded view of all points voiced by both the police associations, the Legco security panel and members of the public. It is in the interests of all parties concerned to ensure the disciplinary code is both fair and efficient.' Another issue that may be examined is the seemingly more active judicial stance in reviewing appeal judgments. In one particular case, a judge suggested the proceedings - which are based on the balance of probabilities - should have been held under a harsher onus of proof because the allegations verged on criminality. There is also concern that the system of officers appearing as supporters of colleagues in proceedings should be changed. Meanwhile, the Local Inspectors' Association is seeking legal advice to determine if it will pursue a case for the right to early retirement. Such a claim is based on a belief local officers have been prejudiced by the decision to compensate police serving with Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service in that their payoffs can be granted regardless of whether they retire or stay in the force. The Expatriate Inspectors' Association has sought membership approval to raise a fighting fund for a possible legal challenge.