The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Procedural Hearing

30 October 2017

 Teacher  XXXXXXXX
Registration Number XXXXXXXX
 Registration category  Secondary - History
 Panel  Tony Bragg, Nicola Dasgupta and David Brew
 Legal Assessor  James Mulgrew
 Servicing Officer  Vivien Whyte
 Presenting Officer  Gary Burton, Anderson Strathern LLP (not present)
 Respondent's representative  Alastair Milne, Balfour & Manson LLP (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; and
  • the “Rules” (and any related expression) means the GTCS Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them.

Background

The procedural meeting was arranged to consider the Teacher’s application for his 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. XXXXXXX report dated 22 March 2016
  2. XXXXXXX report dated 14 September 2017
  3. GTCS decisions in cases dated 30 May 2017, 16 June 2017, 4 May 2017
  4. Removal with Consent Order signed and dated 30 June 2017

The Panel also had before it written submissions lodged by Mr Milne and an email from Mr Burton dated 19 October 2017.

Decision

The Panel took account of all of the documentation provided to it, as outlined above, 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.

Rule 1.7.2 outlines the provision that hearings will be held in public. However, rule 1.7.3 goes on to say that:-

“A Panel may, at any stage of proceedings on its own initiative 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 (having given the relevant parties an opportunity to make representations and in compliance with all relevant Convention rights) 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. Any such decision (and the reasons for it) will be announced in public or made publicly available.

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 the 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 anonymisation or otherwise) and whether before, during or after those proceedings; and
  3. An order for measures seeking to prevent witnesses at a public hearing being identifiable by members of the public.”

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.

As provided for by rule 1.7.3, the Panel’s decision with respect to the application must comply with the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Article 6 of the ECHR sets out that “……everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing…….Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice”.

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 basis for the application was the health of the Teacher. In that respect, the Panel closely considered the evidence which had been lodged, outlining both the historical and current health concerns of the Teacher. They were outlined in the reports provided by Dr XXXXXXXX.

In her initial report, dated 22 March 2016, Dr XXXXXXXX outlined the Teacher’s background history and difficulties that he had experienced in his professional and personal life, leading up to the allegations in question. The Teacher had outlined to her that matters had become “really bad” by October 2013 and continued in that vain, both professionally and personally. He was finally diagnosed with having XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX in February 2016 (with which Dr XXXXXXXX agreed) and Dr XXXXXXXX was of the opinion that he also suffered from a XXXXXXXX illness from 2010 onwards, which was ongoing at the time of the report.

In her most recent report, dated 14 September 2017, Dr XXXXXXXX stated that the Teacher noted a further deterioration XXXXXXXX since she previously assessed him. The Teacher told Dr XXXXXXXX that he had XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX and that they were most frequently triggered by thoughts of the GTCS complaint against him and the spectre that this may be made public. The Teacher had commented to her “this is what I’m scared of. XXXXXXXX…….”. Dr XXXXXXXX assessment was that the Teacher would meet the criteria for a XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX and that the likely effect on his XXXXXXXX health of publicity being given to the outcome of the Removal with Consent Application would be to further worsen his XXXXXXXX health and XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX.

The Panel noted that, along with his XXXXXXXX ill health, the Teacher had been dealing with very challenging issues in his life with apparently very little support. The Teacher had noted to Dr XXXXXXXX that he had undertaken XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX earlier this year but that they had had no sustained impact XXXXXXXX. His XXXXXXXX had increased over the past year, resulting in some physical injuries, and his XXXXXXXX health had also impacted on his ability to build a new business. It was clear that the Teacher had sought help in relation to his health but that this had had little impact on him.

It was clear to the Panel that the Teacher’s life had not improved since Dr XXXXXXXX first report but had, in fact, deteriorated. The Panel accepted as a genuine utterance by the Teacher that XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX and that there was a real risk XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX should his name be publicised, taking account of his diagnosed XXXXXXXX condition and his background experiences.

The Panel accepted the opinion of Dr XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX that the likely effect of publicity would be to XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX. Accordingly, the risk to the Teacher was of the utmost seriousness.

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, although fitness to teach disposals can result in having a punitive effect. 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 his name being publicised.

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

In addition, the Panel decided to anonymise the name of the employer, the schools and the Depute Head Teacher outlined in the allegation. The Panel did so in order to guard against the risk of individuals being able to identify the Teacher through knowledge of not only the allegation but the schools at which the misconduct took place. Such identification would have frustrated the Panel’s decision to anonymise the Teacher’s name.