The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

John Wallace - Full Hearing

Full Hearing

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Teacher Wallace John (not present and not represented)
Membership number 1873161L
Registration category Applicant for Registration - Secondary: Religious Education
Panel John Kilpatrick (Convener), Maureen Anderson and Lily Proudfoot
Legal Assessor Julie McKinlay
Servicing Officer Vivien Whyte
Presenting Officer Laura Bowen, Anderson Strathern LLP

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 Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them; and
  • the “Register” means the GTCS register of teachers.

Preliminary issues

Absence of the Teacher

The Teacher did not attend the hearing and was not represented at it. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to proceed in the absence of the Teacher having regard to Rules 1.7.8 and 1.6.1 and to the Postponement, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence practice statement.

In terms of rule 1.7.8:

“If a party fails to attend or to be represented at the time and place fixed for the hearing, the Panel-

  1. will require to satisfy itself that the notice of the hearing has been sent to that individual in accordance with these Rules (or that all reasonable efforts have been made so to do); and
  2. may, where the Panel is satisfied that notice has been so sent (or such reasonable efforts have been made) and that it is just to do so, proceed to hear and dispose of the case or matter presented in the absence of that party.”

In accordance with Rule 1.6.1, the Notice is served if sent by post in which delivery or receipt is recorded or sent to the Teacher using electronic communications to an electronic address provided by the Teacher. The Notice of Hearing was sent by email and the email delivery receipt produced dated 21 December 2017. A copy of the Notice of Hearing was sent recorded delivery to the address of the Teacher provided to the GTCS. The Royal Mail Track and Trace is dated 4 January 2018 and shows that the Notice was delivered.

The Panel was accordingly satisfied that the Notice of Full Hearing had been served in accordance with the Rules.

In terms of the Postponement, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence practice statement, it is a matter for the Panel as to whether to proceed in the absence of the Teacher. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to take into account a number of factors. The Notice had been served properly; it was apparent from the correspondence and telephone calls between the GTCS and the Teacher that the Teacher was aware of the hearing; the Teacher had provided no good reason for non attendance; the matter was serious and adjourning the hearing would only delay proceedings.

The Panel had before it a copy of the Notice of Full Hearing dated 21 December 2017 which had been sent to the Teacher by email and also by recorded delivery. In addition, the Panel had before them an email from GTCS dated 31 August 2017 explaining the fitness to teach process in detail and inviting the Teacher to respond. The letter included advice as to the matters which might be relevant to the Panel in considering the Teacher’s case. Further, the GTCS spoke to the Teacher on the telephone on 12 October 2017 and the Teacher was invited to provide any information he wished to be considered by the Panel. Additional emails were sent on 31 October and 15 November 2017 by GTCS inviting the Teacher to respond to the allegation. GTCS spoke to the Teacher by telephone on 10 January 2018. He confirmed that he was aware of the hearing and was advised that he could attend. No further response was received. GTCS attempted to contact the Teacher by telephone on the day of the Full Hearing but was unable to reach him.

There were two options open to the Panel, either to adjourn or to continue in the absence of the Teacher. The Panel noted that the Teacher had not engaged with the process and had not responded to the hearing notice. In particular, no information had been produced by the Teacher for consideration by the Panel. The Teacher was aware that the hearing was taking place and had provided no explanation for his non-attendance. GTCS had made significant efforts to encourage the Teacher to take part in proceedings. There was no known reason for his non-attendance. The events with which the case was concerned had occurred some time ago and were of a serious nature. There was no information available which would lead the Panel to conclude that, in the event of a postponement, the Teacher would attend at a later date. The Panel determined that the Teacher had waived his right to attend the hearing. The Panel was of the view that there was a public interest in proceeding with the hearing as the allegation was serious and it was important to avoid further delay.

In the circumstances, the Panel determined that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Teacher.

Allegation

Following receipt of an application to register with GTCS from the Teacher, the following allegation was considered at the hearing:

  1. On or around 14 December 2007, at Oxford Crown Court, you were convicted upon indictment of:
  2. 1/1 Obtaining a money transfer by deception
    1/2 Obtaining a money transfer by deception
    1/3 Attempting to obtain property by deception

    And you were sentenced at Oxford Crown Court on 17 January 2008 to:

    1/1 Community sentence- Must carry out unpaid work for 150 hours
    1/2 Community sentence- Must carry out unpaid work for 150 hours concurrent
    1/3 Community sentence- Must carry out unpaid work for 150 hours concurrent

  3. 2. And in light of the above, it is alleged that your fitness to teach is impaired and you are unfit to teach, as a result of breaching Parts 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s admissions

The Teacher did not provide a response to the allegation. However, the Panel noted that the Teacher had advised GTCS of the conviction which formed the basis of the allegation in his application for registration.

Hearing papers

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

Presenting Officer’s hearing papers

P1 Certificate of Conviction, Oxford Crown Court, dated 4 May 2017

Teacher’s hearing papers

The Teacher did not provide any documentation in advance of the hearing for consideration by the Panel

S1 Email to Mr John from GTCS dated 31 August 2017 with delivery receipt
S2 Telephone Note dated 12 October 2017
S3 Email to Mr John from GTCS dated 12 October 2017 with delivery receipt
S4 Telephone Note dated 31 October 2017
S5 Email to Mr John from GTCS dated 31 October 2017 with delivery receipt
S6 Email to Mr John from GTCS dated 15 November 2017 with delivery receipt
S7 Notice of Full Hearing dated 21 December 2017 with email delivery receipt
S8 Letter to Mr John from GTCS dated 3 January 2018 with delivery receipt
S9 Telephone Note dated 10 January 2018
S10 Royal Mail proof of delivery receipt
S11 Email and attached letter to Mr John from GTCS dated 22 January 2018 along with delivery receipt

Findings of fact on the allegation

The Presenting Officer produced a copy of the certificate of conviction for the Panel certified by a competent officer of the court. Having regard to the provisions of Rules 1.7.18 and 1.7.19 and the fact that there was no evidence disputing that the person named in the extract conviction report was the Teacher; the Panel found that the facts set out in the allegation were proved.

Findings on fitness to teach

Given that the Panel found that the allegation had been proved, the Panel invited the Presenting Officer to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

No further evidence was presented

Presenting Officer’s submissions

The Presenting Officer submitted that the starting point for the Panel is the Public Services Reform (GTCS) Order 2011 which contains the definition of unfitness. In addition, the Panel should consider the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance.

The Presenting Officer submitted that the allegation found proved amounted to misconduct. The GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance states that the Panel must consider whether the shortfalls are remediable, have been remedied and the likelihood of reoccurrence. There is assistance in the case law at Appendix 2 of the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance. The Panel must not lose sight of the need to protect the public and to maintain public confidence in the profession.

The Presenting Officer indicated key factors which she said were relevant. The allegation was serious and no insight or remorse had been shown. The Panel was unable to satisfy itself that there would be no repetition of the misconduct. There was no evidence before the Panel as to what the Teacher had done to remedy the situation in the years since the conviction in 2007.

In relation to the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012 (COPAC), the Presenting Officer submitted that a number of parts had been breached. Part 1.3 of COPAC relates to the need to avoid situations which would place a Teacher in breach of the criminal law. Part 1.4 requires the Teacher to uphold standards of personal and professional conduct, honesty and integrity so that the public have confidence in the Teacher and teaching as a profession. Part 1.6 requires that the Teacher maintain awareness that a Teacher is a role model to pupils.

The Presenting Officer submitted that the Teacher had fallen significantly short of the standards expected. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to find the Teacher unfit to teach.

Decision

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach, as outlined in the GTCS Indicative Outcomes Guidance.

The Panel determined that the allegation found proved represents conduct that falls significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that the Teacher is therefore unfit to teach.

Whilst the Panel was mindful that the Teacher was not registered with GTCS at the time of the conviction and so was not subject to COPAC at that time, the Panel considered whether the conduct would have breached COPAC in making its determination regarding the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

The Panel found that the Teacher had breached Parts 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC. The Panel was of the view that the allegation found proved had clearly called into question the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Teacher had been found in breach of the criminal law. The conviction was for a crime of dishonesty. Whilst the sentence was a community sentence, the conviction was, in the view of the Panel, a serious one. In being so convicted of a crime involving deception, the Teacher had failed to act as a role model to pupils. The Panel was of the view that the Teacher’s conduct fell significantly short of the standards expected at the time of the offence.

The Panel next considered whether the conduct could be remedied. The Panel considered that the conduct was capable of being remedied but that was only so if the Teacher took steps to do so. However, there was no evidence before the Panel to allow it to conclude that the conduct had been remedied or that the Teacher had been or was taking steps to remedy the conduct. The Teacher had not attended the hearing and so had not taken the opportunity to demonstrate that the conduct was or had been remediated. Had the Teacher attended, the Panel would have been able to ask the Teacher questions regarding his insight into the conduct. The Panel had no evidence before it upon which they could conclude that the Teacher had shown insight or remorse. The Panel noted that the Teacher had declared the conviction on the application for registration but the Panel was of the view that this was insufficient to allow it to conclude that there had been remorse, insight or remediation of the shortfalls. It was not possible, in the absence of any evidence, for the Panel to conclude that there was a low risk of reoccurrence.

Finally, the Panel considered the public interest. The Panel was of the view that a finding of unfit to teach was necessary. As the Panel had found, on the basis of the evidence before it, that the Teacher had not remedied the conduct and that it was not possible to say that it would not reoccur, a finding of unfit to teach was required in order to mark the seriousness of the conduct. This would ensure public confidence in GTCS as a regulator and teaching as a profession, as well as declare and uphold proper standards.

Accordingly, for the reasons set out above, the Panel determined that the Teacher’s conduct falls significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that he is therefore unfit to teach.

Disposal

As the Panel determined that the Teacher is unfit to teach, in accordance with the terms of Article 18(2)(a) of the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011, it directed that the Teacher’s application for registration be refused.

The Panel directed that the Teacher should be prohibited from making a further application for registration for a period of two years from the date of its decision. The Panel considered that the conduct was of a serious nature and concerned the honesty of the Teacher. In the absence of any evidence to show that the Teacher had shown insight or remorse or upon which the Panel could properly conclude that the risk of reoccurrence was low, the Panel considered the period of two years to be appropriate.

Appeal

The Teacher has the right to appeal to the Court of Session against the decision within 28 days of service of the Decision Notice.