The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Outcome

PROCEDURAL HEARING

11 September 2018

 Teacher  Claire Sinclair (not present)
 Registration Number 931006
 Registration category  Primary
 Panel  Maureen Anderson, Kathleen McCormick, Ian McDonough
 Legal Assessor  James Mulgrew
 Servicing Officer  Not Present
 Presenting Officer  Gary Burton, Anderson Strathern (not present)
 Teacher's representative  Martin Walker, Balfour & Manson (not present)

Any reference in this decision 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 and Appeals Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them
  • the "Register" means the GTCS register of teachers
  • “COPAC” means the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct

Background

The Procedural Meeting was arranged to consider the following applications by the Teacher:

  1. For the Full Hearing to be heard in private; and
  2. For the name of the Teacher to be anonymised in the Full Hearing decision.

Hearing Papers

P1 Submissions for privacy and anonymity, lodged on behalf of the Teacher P2 Medical Report, prepared by Witness 7, dated 22 February 2018 P3 Email from Witness 7 to Martin Walker, Balfour + Manson, dated 3 August 2018 P4 Printout from NHS Choices website, detailing [Redacted] P5 Submissions on behalf of the Presenting Officer, Gary Burton

Decision

The Teacher’s representative submitted that both applications should be granted given the medical evidence provided in support of each application. The Presenting Officer opposed both applications on the basis that the medical evidence was not sufficient to justify a departure from the default position that hearings take place in public and that there should be transparency regarding decisions made by Panels.

The Panel had careful regard to the application and all supporting papers, together with the response from the Presenting Officer. The Panel took account of the Rules and guidance provided in the GTCS practice statements, “Conducting Hearings in Private” and “Health Matters and Medical Evidence”.

The Panel first had regard to the relevant Rules, namely 1.7.2 and 1.7.3. In particular, it noted that:

Subject to certain provisions within the Rules, hearings will be held in public (Rule 1.7.2).

A Panel may, at any stage of proceedings, make an order preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of proceedings 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:-

  1. that a hearing be conducted (in whole or in part) in private;
  2. an order identifying specified parties, witnesses or others referred to should not be disclosed to the public (by use of anonymisation or otherwise) and whether before, during or after those proceedings (Rule 1.7.3).

The Panel had regard to the GTCS Health Matters and Medical Evidence Practice Statement. It noted the requirements that medical evidence, in the form of a report or letter, should contain the following information: a specific diagnosis; the severity of the condition; a specific explanation of how the condition impacts on attendance at a hearing and/or the ability to engage in the process; what treatment is being given; and what the prognosis is.

Medical evidence in support of the applications had been provided by the Teacher’s representative in the form of two reports by Witness 7, dated 22 February 2018 and 3 August 2018. The reports confirmed that the Teacher had an established diagnosis of [Redacted]. Initial symptoms began in 2008 and deteriorated in 2013, requiring hospital admission and treatment. The Teacher’s condition had been stable since 2013. The Teacher attends for [Redacted] on a monthly basis. The doctor opined that a public hearing would be a stressful environment and stress could precipitate [Redacted] and may cause worsening of pre-existing symptoms. Further, stress itself may be an independent factor in the potential for development of relapses. Further, the Teacher was more susceptible to fatigue.

The Panel had regard to the GTCS Conducting Hearings in Private Practice Statement. It noted that this highlights the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provisions that indicate that proceedings should be in public and that evidence should be communicated publicly with fair, accurate and contemporaneous media reporting (unless it is considered necessary for some restriction). The practice statement further makes clear that any decision to hold a hearing in private must be justified by an exception to the normal position, as set out above. Those exceptions are: in the interests of moral, public order or national security interests; where the interests of juveniles so require; where the protection of private life of the parties require; and to the extent necessary where in special circumstances publicity would prejudice the interests of justice. The practice statement, by reference to the ECHR, stipulates that the protection of a person’s private life includes the protection of health.

The Panel considered that the public interest in holding the hearing in public had been outweighed by the private interests of the Teacher, given the medical evidence and submissions presented on her behalf. On the basis of that medical evidence, the Panel had a significant concern that the Teacher would not be able to participate as effectively at the Full Hearing if the hearing were in public rather than in private. The Panel acknowledged the potential that a Full Hearing could act as an aggravator of the Teacher’s condition with an increased risk to her heath. On that basis, the Panel granted the Teacher’s application for the Full Hearing to be conducted in private.

However, the Panel was not satisfied that the Teacher’s name should be anonymised in the Full Hearing decision. The medical evidence had not addressed that issue directly. The Panel considered that the potential risk to the Teacher’s health in the event of her name being published in the decision was remote. Accordingly, the Panel was not satisfied that there was a basis upon which to grant that particular application.