The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Procedural Hearing

21 November 2017

 Teacher  XXXXXXXX
&npsp;Registration Number XXXXXXXX
 Registration category  Secondary - Physical Education
 Panel  Tony Bragg, Lynda Dalziel, Karen Greaves
 Legal Assessor  Robert Frazer
 Servicing Officer  Gillian Sim
 Respondent's representative  Alastair Milne, Balfour & Manson LLP (not present)

Definitions

Any reference in this outcome to:

  • “GTCS” means the General Teaching Council for Scotland;
  • the “Panel” means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case;
  • the “Rules” (and any related expression) means the GTCS Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them;
  • the “Register” means the GTCS register of teachers; or
  • “COPAC” means the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Background

Procedural meeting was arranged to consider the Teacher’s application for her name to be anonymised in the outcome issued at the conclusion of the case. In accordance with the rules, the meeting was held in private.

Evidence

In accordance with rule 1.7.17, the Panel admitted all of the documents listed below as evidence for the purposes of the meeting:

  1. Privacy Application Submission
  2. Letter from GP practice dated 22 September 2017
  3. Clinical Psychology Report dated 6 October 2017
  4. Statement of witness, dated 3 October 2017
  5. Removal with Consent Order dated 17 July 2017

Summary of evidence and submissions

The application was accompanied by full written submissions provided on behalf of the Teacher together with supporting medical evidence from the GP and a clinical psychologist, Dr XXXXXXXX. In addition, there was a statement from a work colleague, giving information on the Teacher’s current circumstances.

Decision

The Panel considered all of the information available to it as well as the relevant rules and the GTCS practice statement on Conducting Hearings in Private and the practice statement on Health Matters and Medical Evidence. The Panel also considered the general objective of the Rules, which is set out at rule 1.3.7, which is to deal with cases fairly and justly.

It noted the serious nature of the allegations, the fact that they were admitted and the disposal by way of a Removal with Consent Order.

The Panel next considered the written submissions in which reference was made to Rule 1.7.3 which provides, inter alia:

A Panel may, at any stage of the proceedings on its own volition or on application to it, make an order with a view to preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of proceedings. A Panel may do this so far as it considers it necessary where it is satisfied … that it is in the interests of justice to do so and the particular circumstances of the case outweigh the interests of the Teacher and the public in the hearing being held in public…

Such orders may include (but will not be limited to) –

  1. An order that a hearing be conducted (in whole or in part) in private;
  2. An order that identities of specified parties, witnesses or other persons referred to in the proceedings should not be disclosed at such proceedings to the public (by the use of anonymization or otherwise) and whether before, during or after those proceedings;..”

In his submissions, Mr Milne relied upon one of the exceptions to the right to a public hearing, as provided for under Article 6 of the ECHR. That exception was “where the protection of the private life of the parties so require”.

In recognition of that exception under the ECHR, the GTCS practice statement on Conducting Hearings in Private outlines examples of when it might be appropriate for a hearing to be held in private. One of those exceptions is entitled “Protection of Private Life”. The practice statement states that in order to accede to a privacy application on the basis of the protection of the private life of an individual, the Panel must be satisfied that there is a compelling reason for doing so.

The panel noted that the application was based on the Teacher’s current health and was described by the GP as being “acutely depressed, with low mood, poor sleep, concentration and appetite”. The Panel had careful regard to the terms of the letter together with the Clinical Psychologist Report in which she was diagnosed as having a Major Depressive Disorder. It was the opinion of the Clinical Psychologist that the potential effects of a public hearing and publicity was likely to increase the possibility of self –harm and the risk of suicide. The Panel further noted the witness statement of the witness where she described the Teacher as “not wanting to be here” and having discussed suicidal thoughts, including various potential methods for carrying out such an act.

In the circumstances the Panel considered that the Teacher has an ongoing mental health illness and has genuinely contemplated suicide. The Panel considered that in these circumstances there were strong and compelling reasons which satisfied the need to anonymise any written decision in order to protect the Teacher’s identity and ensure that her current health problems were not compromised.

The Panel considered the interests of the public in the Teacher’s name being made public. However, the public will see that GTCS has taken appropriate action in this case. The allegation, which has been admitted, will be publicised and the Teacher’s name will be removed from the Register. The purpose of regulatory proceedings is to protect and not to punish. The Panel’s view was that, in these particular circumstances, the likely effect of publication was wholly disproportionate to the aim of public proceedings, given the serious risk of harm to the Teacher in her name being publicised.

Accordingly, the Panel determined that the risk of harm to the Teacher constituted a compelling reason for anonymising her name and that the particular circumstances of the case outweighed the interests of publicising her name.

For all of these reasons, the Panel ordered that the Teacher’s name be anonymised within this written decision and within the Removal with Consent Order, signed by the Teacher, to be published.