The body that deals with police complaints is preparing to hold a hearing involving officers in public.

It would be the first time that this has happened in the history of the police service in England and Wales.

Doctors and the military hold disciplinary hearings in public, and the private nature of police hearings has led to allegations of leniency.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission says it has identified a case which could be heard in public.

But officials will not say what it is and insist no final decision has been made.

The power to hold disciplinary proceedings in public was enshrined in the 2002 Police Reform Act, but has not been used.

Last year, the IPCC consulted on how the process would work and agreed a way forward.

Various criteria would have to be met and a hearing would only be held in public if the commission "considers that because of the gravity or other exceptional circumstances it would be in the public interest to do so", a spokeswoman said.

Dyche case

Those cases where inquests or criminal or civil cases had already seen the issues involved discussed would be less likely to have a public disciplinary hearing.

But the spokeswoman suggested that the case of horse enthusiast Tania Moore, murdered by former boyfriend Mark Dyche in 2004, was one which could have benefited from a public hearing.

The victim had told police about threats made by Dyche and several officers faced misconduct hearings in October.

The Police Federation - which represents frontline officers - is believed to be opposed to the move.

The number of complaints against police in England and Wales has risen by 15% over the last year, recent figures showed.

But the Police Federation said officers were "too often made to feel guilty before investigation has started" and have in the past accused the IPCC of bias.