The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

14 & 16 August 2017

 Respondent  Respondent A
 Registration category  Secondary - Physical Education
 Panel  John Kilpatrick (Convener), Lynda Dalziel and Arthur Stewart
 Legal Assessor  Gareth Jones
 Servicing Officer  Dani Tovey
 Presenting Officer  Natalie McCartney, Anderson Strathern
 Respondent's representative  Paul Reid, Fleming and Reid

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 2012 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them
  • the "Register" means the GTCS register of teachers

Preliminary issues

Absence of the Respondent

The Respondent did not attend the hearing and neither was he represented. Correspondence had been received from his representative in advance of the hearing confirming that the Respondent would not be attending and that he had chosen not to be involved. The Respondent’s representative also indicated that he would not be attending the hearing, but did provide clarification of the Respondent’s position in relation to each of the allegations in the complaint.

In light of the Respondent’s non-attendance at the hearing, the Presenting Officer made an application to proceed in his absence, pursuant to Rule 1.7.7 of the Rules. It was submitted that that the Respondent was clearly aware of the hearing date and that he had voluntarily absented himself. In those circumstances the Panel was invited to exercise its discretion and proceed in his absence.

The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel of the terms of Rule 1.7.7. The Panel had to be satisfied that notice of the hearing had been served on the Respondent in accordance with the Rules. If the Panel was satisfied that it had been, it could then decide whether it was appropriate to proceed in the Respondent’s absence.

The Legal Assessor made reference to the cases of R v Hayward and R v Jones, GMC v Adeogba and the general information contained in the GTCS Postponements, Adjournments and Proceeding in the Absence of the Respondent Practice Statement. He emphasised to the Panel that it is only in exceptional circumstances that a Panel should proceed in the absence of the Respondent, especially where that person is unrepresented. The Panel was advised that it should undertake a careful balancing exercise and consider in particular, the following factors: why the Respondent had absented himself, in particular whether he did so voluntarily so as to waive his right to appear and be represented; whether an adjournment might result in the Respondent attending voluntarily; the extent of the disadvantage to the Respondent in not being able to give his account; the particular interest of any witnesses to the proceedings and the general public interest in cases being dealt with expeditiously.

The Panel had regard to all of the documents giving notice of the hearing date and to the correspondence received from the Respondent’s representative. The Panel was entirely satisfied from this information that the Respondent had been served with notice of the hearing date and went on to consider whether it would be appropriate to proceed in his absence.

The Panel noted firstly the procedural history of the case. There had been two procedural hearings but the Respondent had not attended at either. Furthermore, it was clear from the information provided that the Respondent had made the decision not to attend the hearing. In light of this information, the Panel considered that the Respondent had voluntarily absented himself so as to waive his right to appear and be represented. The Panel was also satisfied that an adjournment would not secure the Respondent’s attendance because, having regard to all of the available information, it was apparent that he had chosen not to engage with the process.

The Panel also noted that, through his representative, the Respondent admitted all but two of the allegations, which meant that the hearing would be more focussed than it might have otherwise been. The Panel was also fully aware of the Respondent’s position in relation to the two allegations that he denied.

Finally, the Panel had regard to the fact that six witnesses were to be called by the Presenting Officer, one of whom was to give evidence from abroad by video-link. The Panel considered that there would be a great deal of inconvenience caused to these witnesses if the hearing was further delayed.

The Panel further noted that the allegations related to the period of 2012 to 2014 and that they were serious in nature. The Panel was therefore of the view that there was a public interest in avoiding delay.

Having regard to all of the circumstances referred to above, the Panel decided to exercise its discretion and proceed in the absence of the Respondent.

Complaint

The complaint against the Respondent considered at the hearing was as follows:

  1. Whilst a provisionally registered teacher and employed as a probationer teacher by City of Edinburgh Council at School A, Edinburgh, you did:
    1. Between 1 October 2012 and 31 March 2013, both dates inclusive, form an inappropriate relationship with a pupil, Pupil A, including having a sexual relationship with her and asking her to keep the details of the relationship secret;
    2. On or around 8 April 2013, breach the terms of your suspension from School A as advised to you on 21 March 2013 by entering the school without authorisation;
    3. Between 8 April 2013 and 10 May 2013, both dates inclusive, breach the terms of your suspension by breaking confidentiality and informing a member of staff, Witness 1, of the nature of the allegations against you and requesting details about the ongoing investigation;
  2. On or around 26 September 2014, at Edinburgh City Chambers, High Street, Edinburgh, in the course of your appeal against dismissal by City of Edinburgh Council, you did:
    1. On the way into the appeal meeting, utter a threat of violence against Witness 5, who had carried out the disciplinary investigation into the allegations against you, causing her fear and alarm;
    2. On learning that your appeal was unsuccessful, swear, shout and behave in an aggressive manner towards those present, and in particular you did pour a jug of water over the head of Senior Education Manager, and throw a stack of papers at her, striking her on the face to her injury;
    3. Struggle violently with Police Constable PC1 when he attempted to restrain you and repeatedly punch PC1 on the face, to his injury;
    4. Struggle violently with Police Constable PC2 and head butt him on the face, to his injury;
    And in relation to 2(a), (b) and (c), above, you did on 18 February 2015 in Edinburgh Sheriff Court plead guilty to various charges of violence and disorder

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 the General Teaching Councl for Scotland's Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012, Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 2.3, 2.4, 4.1 and 4.3, and with regard to Commentary to Parts 1, 2 and 4.

Respondent's admissions

In an email to the Servicing Officer dated 7 August 2017, the Respondent’s representative stated:

“…My client confirms the following:-

  1. Charge 1(a) is not accepted.
  2. Charge 1(b) this is accepted. My client offers the explanation that items of personal property were still within the school. He returned to collect these items in the course of an evening thereby avoiding meeting any pupils or teachers.
  3. Charge 1(c) this is not accepted. The member of staff Witness 1 was a close friend of my client. He sought counsel from her and in the course of conversation discussed the allegations against him. At no stage did he request that Witness 1 provide details regarding the ongoing investigation.
  4. The terms of Charge 2 in its entirety are accepted.
  5. No comment regarding [whether] his Fitness to Teach is impaired or whether he is unfit to teach. That is a matter he considers can be best left to the Panel given their experience in the profession.
  6. My client remains unwell. He has expressed a view that he has no intention of returning to the teaching profession.”

Accordingly, the Panel found paragraphs 1(b) and 2 (a) to (e) of the complaint proved.

Hearing Papers

In accordance with Rule 3.1.3, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements listed below as evidence for the purposes of the hearing:

Presenting Officer’s hearing papers

P1 Statement of Witness 5, signed and dated 14 May 2014
P2 Statement of Witness 2, signed and dated 8 May 2016
P3 Statement of Witness 3, signed [electronically] and dated 11 May 2016
P4 Statement of Witness 4, signed and dated 9 May 2016
P5 Statement of Witness 1, signed and dated 20 May 2014, with supplemental statement of May 2016 and attachment
P6 Statement of Witness 6, signed and dated 12 November 2014
P7 Correspondence between GTCS and Police Scotland, email enquiry of 26 February 2016 and reply of 11 March 2016
P8 Letter Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to GTCS, 7 May 2015, with attached summary of evidence (redacted by COPFS)
P9 Copy Complaint of the Procurator Fiscal against the Respondent, with record of plea (18 February 2015) and disposal (23 February 2015)
P10 Police Witness Statement of PC2, 16 January 2015
P11 Police Witness Statement of PC1, 30 December 2014
P12 City of Edinburgh Council Children and Families Department submission to Personnel Appeals Committee in the case of the Respondent [excluding appendices, which were not provided to GTCS], undated but appeal heard on 26 September 2014
P13 Letter of dismissal, City of Edinburgh Council to the Respondent, 26 February 2014
P14 Investigation Report, Witness 5, 2 June 2013, including appendices:

  • Notes of investigating officer’s interview with Pupil A’s father, 17 April 2013
  • Notes of investigating officer’s interview with Pupil B, 17 April 2013
  • Notes of investigating officer’s interview with Witness 2, 8 May 2013
  • Statement by Witness 3, 22 April 2013
  • Statement by Witness 1, undated
  • Notes of investigating officer’s interview with the Respondent, 29 April 2013 and 10 May 2013

Appendices related to “cause for concern” referral:

  • Cause for Concern Referral form, 12 October 2012
  • Cause for Concern Referral – Further Information
  • Statement by Witness 4, 17 January 2014
  • Statement by Witness 3, 16 January 2014
  • Statement by Witness 2, 16 January 2014
  • Statement by Head of PE, 23 January 2014
  • Statement by Staff member 1, 23 January 2014
  • Mobile phone records, account of Pupil A’s father, 6 February 2013 – 2 April 2013
  • Staff Data Collection Form for the Respondent, 15 August 2012
  • Facebook conversation between Witness 6 and Pupil B, 8 October 2012
  • [Appendix 11 - CCTV footage - not provided to GTCS]
  • Email Witness 4 to Witness 5, 29 April 2013
  • Email Witness 3 to Witness 2, 5 May 2013
  • Email Witness 2 to Witness 5, 13 May 2013
P15 City of Edinburgh Council, referral to GTCS, 22 April 2013 P16 Copy letter of suspension, City of Edinburgh Council to the Respondent, 21 March 2013 P17 GTCS registration details for the Respondent as at 23 April 2013 and registration history re contact telephone number (screen shot April 2016) P18 GTCS Probationer Profile (Interim 1), the Respondent, August - November 2012

Respondent’s hearing papers

The Respondent provided no documents or statements to be included within the hearing papers. The Respondent’s position was set out by his representative in an email dated 7 August 2017 (contained within the Servicing Officer’s hearing papers at document S5).

Servicing Officer

S1 Notice of hearing dated 1 June 2017 and email delivery/read receipts
S2 Procedural Hearing Decision Annex dated 31 January 2017
S3 Postponement Decision dated 5 July 2017
S4 Non-attendance emails dated 4 August 2017
S5 Email from the Respondent’s Representative dated 7 August 2017
   

Summary of Evidence

Witness 1

In the course of examination in chief Witness 1 read aloud her witness statement and was asked a number of questions. The salient parts of her evidence can be summarised as follows.

At the time of the allegations on the complaint Witness 1 was the Curriculum leader for Languages and Literacy at School A. As part of her role she was Acting Chair of the Literacy Working Group, which the Respondent joined shortly after his arrival at the school in August 2012.

The Respondent joined School A as a probationer teacher and was 25 years of age at the time of starting work.

Witness 1 became the Respondent’s mentor and would provide him with what she described as “whole school support.” In her dealings with the Respondent she found him to be very enthusiastic and keen to help. However, he could also present as immature, especially when around some of the pupils at the school.  He would “high five” other pupils in the corridor and acted as though he wanted to be their friend as opposed to maintaining proper professional boundaries. There were occasions when she had to remind the Respondent that he was the adult and the pupils were there to learn from him. However, despite giving the Respondent that advice, there was no real improvement in how he interacted with the pupils.

On Wednesday 25 April 2013 the Respondent was due to attend a Literacy Leaders Meeting in his capacity as a member of the Literacy Working Group. After texting the Respondent to confirm his attendance at the meeting, the Respondent informed Witness 1 that an allegation had been made against him and that he did not want to involve her in what was going on. She subsequently sent the Respondent a text offering her support, however, at the time of doing so she was unaware of the nature of the allegations that had been made against him.

The Respondent had given Witness 1 his mobile phone number and they would keep in contact by text. It was shortly after the beginning of the Summer term that the Respondent contacted her asking her if he could come over to her address for a “chat” as he was visiting his sister who lived nearby. She had never met the Respondent outside of school but agreed to his request in order to offer him moral support.

The Respondent arrived at the address at approximately 5.30pm and in the course of the discussion that followed informed her that an allegation had been made against him about inappropriate conduct with a pupil. Witness 1 asked the Respondent whether the allegation was made by Pupil A because the Respondent had previously sought advice from her after Pupil A sent him an inappropriate note earlier in the school year. Pupil A was an S5 Pupil who was 16 years of age. She (Witness 1) had provided the Respondent with support by guiding him through the Child Protection procedures and by assisting him in reporting the matters in the correct way. The Respondent indicated, however, that he was unaware of the identity of the pupil and did not reveal any further details about the allegation that had been made.

On 1 May 2013, the Respondent sent Witness 1 a text message asking her if she could find out whether a certain member of staff had provided a witness statement against him. Witness 1 did not respond to that message and subsequently ceased all contact with the Respondent. The reason for that was because on 3 May 2013 she had a discussion with Pupil A at school in which Pupil A revealed to her that she had been “seeing” the Respondent since September 2012. That discussion came about because Pupil A had missed a lot of school and had revision notes to collect from Witness 1’s classroom. Whilst she was collecting the notes, Witness 1 noticed that Pupil A was emotional and asked her what was wrong. It was in response to that question that Pupil A indicated that she and the Respondent had been “seeing” each other. Pupil A went on to explain that after sending a note to the Respondent she was given a warning by her Guidance Teacher, however, the Respondent approached her one day at a bus stop and “initiated” matters, marking the beginning of their relationship. Pupil A said that at some point she spent two nights with the Respondent at a hotel in Dublin Street, Edinburgh because the Respondent suspected he had been seen in the company of Pupil A by another teacher and they (the Respondent and Pupil A) wanted to discuss the situation and decide upon a “strategy”. According to Pupil A, however, the Respondent wanted to lie about it all.

In the course of her discussion with Pupil A, Witness 1 formed the impression that she was completely “besotted” with the Respondent. Pupil A said that the Respondent had told her that he loved her and she expressed her disappointment that they could not be together. Whilst at no stage did Pupil A say that the relationship was sexual, Witness 1 assumed that it was given that, according to Pupil A, the relationship had been ongoing since September 2012.

Witness 1 knew Pupil A relatively well because she was her English Teacher in 5th year and saw her 4/5 times a week as a result. She believed what Pupil A said about her relationship with the Respondent because Pupil A was able to provide a lot of detail about the relationship over the course of approximately one hour.

Witness 1 also had reason to doubt the Respondent’s denial that he had done anything wrong because, at some point, she learned that in the course of the investigation the Respondent had denied that the phone number, on which she frequently contacted the Respondent, belonged to him. Also, the phone number that she had for the Respondent was the same as the one that he had provided on his staff information form.

Witness 1 was also unimpressed by the Respondent’s conduct during the investigation, which she found to be particularly defensive and, at times, aggressive. On 9 May 2013, the Respondent sent her a text message, which she ignored, asking her if she had provided a witness statement against him. The next day the Respondent sent her a further text message suggesting that she had betrayed him. The Respondent’s overly-defensive behaviour reinforced her belief that he was lying and that Pupil A was telling the truth. 

Witness 1 also disagreed with the position advanced by the Respondent through his representative that at no stage did he request that she provide details regarding the ongoing investigation. She maintained that the Respondent had asked her whether she had provided a witness statement and to find out whether a certain member of staff had done so.

Witness 2

In the course of examination in chief Witness 2 read aloud his witness statement and was asked a number of questions. The following is a summary of his evidence.

Witness 2 served as Acting Head Teacher of School A from February to April 2013, and was in that role at the time of the initial allegation that the Respondent was having an inappropriate relationship with Pupil A.

On 20 March 2013 he received a telephone call from the father of Pupil A asking for a meeting to be arranged. No further details were provided by Pupil A’s father at that stage but a meeting was scheduled for 9.15am the following morning. 

At the meeting, Pupil A’s father turned up with his brother for support. He stated that his daughter (Pupil A) had told him that she had been seeing the Respondent for the past few months and they were planning to go to Canada. He also said that they were having sex and that the Respondent did not want the relationship to become public until after he finished his probation. His daughter had also told him that she had met the Respondent’s parents but lied to them about her age, claiming to be 18.

At the end of the meeting, Witness 2 rang a colleague and was advised to issue the Respondent with a precautionary suspension letter. He then arranged a meeting with the Respondent. Witness 3 was also present at the meeting.

It was explained to the Respondent that he had been put on precautionary suspension because of an allegation of an inappropriate relationship with a pupil. The Respondent was given a copy of the letter to read along with a copy of the council’s disciplinary procedure. On seeing the Respondent put the documents to one side, Witness 2 decided to read the letter to him to make sure that he understood what it said.

At the meeting the Respondent rejected all avenues of available support and without further explanation said that the matter should be investigated by the Police. The Respondent was then told that he would have to leave the school and not come back for any reason unless he made a prior arrangement to do so with him (Witness 2) or the new Head Teacher. It was also emphasised to the Respondent that he should not mention anything about the complaint because it was confidential.

The Respondent then asked who the pupil was and demanded that she be brought into the meeting to resolve the situation. Witness 2 refused this request at which point the Respondent became very angry and eventually stormed out of the room.

After this meeting Witness 2 received a further call from the father of Pupil A, who explained that when his daughter got into the car to go home following their earlier meeting, she phoned the Respondent and said, “they have found out about us.”

Witness 2 later became aware that during the subsequent Police investigation both Pupil A and her father had refused to give statements to the Police. Pupil A’s father did say to the Police that it was an assumption on his part that the relationship was a sexual one because his daughter had not confirmed that was the case. Witness 2 noted that statement was different to what he had been told by Pupil A’s father during their meeting. Witness 2 also confirmed that the Police decided that there was insufficient evidence to take the matter any further.

On 10 April 2013 it also came to attention of Witness 2 that the Respondent’s personal items had been removed from the PE staff base and that the Respondent had been caught on CCTV returning to the PE base at approximately 8.30pm. At some point he also found out from Witness 1 that the Respondent had gone round to her house and had told her that an allegation of inappropriate conduct hade been made against him, which was being investigated. Witness 2 considered that the Respondent’s actions amounted to a breach of the terms of his suspension.

Witness 3

In the course of examination in chief Witness 3 read aloud her witness statement and was asked a number of questions. The salient parts of her evidence can be summarised as follows.

Witness 3 was appointed the Deputy Head Teacher at School A in May 2010. As part of her role she was responsible for new staff induction, including probationers. As a result, she was first acquainted with the Respondent when he was appointed as a probationer at the school in August 2012.

She met with probationers fortnightly at first and periodically thereafter. The areas that she would cover with them included child protection and day-to-day pastoral issues. She was also involved in an induction programme for all probationers in Edinburgh, which included a session on Child Protection procedures. As far as she was concerned, the Respondent had a clear understanding of Child Protection procedures because when she would go over the procedures with him, he would confirm that he understood what was being discussed.

Witness 3 first became aware of an issue involving the Respondent and Pupil A when Witness 1 showed her an inappropriate letter that was alleged to have been written by Pupil A to the Respondent. There was no indication at that time that the Respondent had been pursuing Pupil A and she advised Witness 1 that the Respondent should complete a “cause for concern” form and submit it to Witness 4, who was Pupil A’s guidance teacher. 

Following this incident, however, Witness 3 noticed that the Respondent would behave casually around some of the students and would sometimes make informal remarks to them. As a consequence, she asked the Head of PE and Staff Member 1 to reinforce advice to the Respondent about maintaining appropriate boundaries. She also explained directly to the Respondent that it was not his role to help students sort out their problems. Despite being given this advice the Respondent persisted in disagreeing with her.

It was on 21 March 2013 that the nature of the relationship between the Respondent and Pupil A re-emerged as an issue. Pupil A’s father came to see Witness 2 and disclosed to him that the Respondent and Pupil A were having a relationship.

After Pupil A’s father left, Witness 2 met with the Respondent to issue him with a precautionary suspension. Witness 2 had also asked her (Witness 3) to be present at the meeting. At the meeting, on being given a copy of the letter of suspension and the relevant local authority procedures, the Respondent became “irate and emotional” as a result of which Witness 2 indicated that he would read the letter aloud. However, the Respondent then repeatedly interrupted Witness 2 stating “this is an outrage” and “get the girl and her family in here.” By that point, however, no mention had been made of the words “girl” and “family.” The Respondent had only been told that there was an incident and that he was being suspended pending the investigation. The Respondent persisted in shouting and swearing until he stormed out of the meeting. She noticed that at no stage in the course of the meeting did the Respondent seek clarification of what the incident to be investigated was about.

Witness 4

In the course of examination in chief Witness 4 read aloud her witness statement and was asked a number of questions. Her evidence can be summarised as follows. 

At the time of the allegations Witness 4 was Acting Deputy Headteacher (Pupil Support) at School A and was subsequently appointed to the substantive post in October 2014. She first became acquainted with the Respondent in August or September 2012, when he started at the school as a probationer teacher.

In October 2012 she was aware that the Respondent issued a “cause for concern” referral with regard to Pupil A after he had received an inappropriate note from her in the previous week. Following the referral, she spoke with Pupil A directly about the note that she had written.

The note talked about relationships and what the maximum age difference between a couple should be. Pupil A claimed that the note related to an essay she was writing for her English class and denied that she had any feelings towards the Respondent. Witness 4 reinforced the message that it was inappropriate for pupils to pass notes to teachers. Afterwards, on speaking with Witness 1, it became apparent that Pupil A had not yet decided on the topic she would write about for her discursive essay, which caused her (Witness 4) to doubt the explanation that Pupil A had given her.

Witness 4 was not involved again in a situation concerning the Respondent and Pupil A until the Spring term, when Pupil A’s father came to the school to report that his daughter was having a relationship with the Respondent. It was Witness 2 that asked her to be present at the meeting that then followed. During the meeting, Pupil A was invited in and did not look particularly surprised to see her father there. At one point she got very tearful and said, “we’ve done nothing wrong”.

Later on in the investigation, Witness 4 became aware of a claim made by Pupil A that she (Witness 4) had not made herself available to discuss with Pupil A difficulties she was having at home, as a result of which Pupil A turned to the Respondent for support. Witness 4 maintained, however, that was simply not true and on checking Pupil A’s notes found that there was no record of her having difficulties at home or of her coming into the guidance base to speak about any issues that she was having. 

Witness 5

Witness 5 is a Head Teacher at a different High School in Edinburgh and in April 2013 was appointed as Investigating Officer by City of Edinburgh Council in relation to a complaint made against the Respondent. The complaint that she was tasked with investigating was that the Respondent had formed an inappropriate relationship with Pupil A, an S5 Pupil at School A and that he had breached the conditions of his suspension by entering the school without permission and by discussing the case with a colleague.

Witness 5 confirmed that during the investigation she interviewed a number of witnesses, including Witnesses 2, 3, 4 and 6 and described the account that she had been given by them. She also interviewed the father of Pupil A as well as the Respondent on three occasions.

Witness 5 met with Pupil A’s father on 17 April 2013 and during their discussion he told her about the information his daughter provided him with regarding her relationship with the Respondent.

Witness 5 was told by Pupil A’s father that his daughter described that she had been “seeing” the Respondent for a period of 5-6 months and that they were planning to move to Canada. Pupil A’s father said that he was aware that his daughter and the Respondent would communicate by text message a lot and had noticed that her phone bill had increased significantly.

Pupil A’s father also said that, after his meeting with Witness 2, he overheard his daughter on the phone to someone whilst he was driving and specifically heard her say, “they have found out about us.” Later that same day, he described returning from the shops and finding the Respondent at his property. The Respondent asked him how he had found out about the relationship but he did not say. According to Pupil A’s father, the Respondent at that time indicated that he was “very fond” of Pupil A. The Respondent then stayed at the house for a meal before leaving with Pupil A in a taxi. The Respondent said that he had a friend who owned a hotel on George Street and they were going to stay there.

During the course of her investigation, Witness 5 spoke to the Police who confirmed to her that the Police had interviewed a taxi driver who recalled dropping off and collecting the Respondent and Pupil A in his taxi. 

Witness 5 was provided with a copy of Pupil A’s phone billing and noticed that there were a significant number of text messages exchanged between Pupil A and what she concluded was the Respondent’s mobile number. She reached that conclusion because having obtained a copy of the staff information form completed by the Respondent, she could see that the numbers matched.

In relation to the interviews that she conducted with the Respondent, she stated that he always denied having a relationship with Pupil A. However, during interview, he was often evasive, unco-operative, challenging, dismissive and personally insulting. As a result, the interviews had to be cut short a number of times and the Respondent was interviewed on a total of three occasions. The Respondent even denied that he had been in text communication with Pupil A despite the fact that her phone billing showed numerous texts and picture messages to the phone number he had given on his staff form. He maintained instead that it was not his number and went on to say that it could be his brother’s.

Witness 6

During examination in chief Witness 6 read aloud her witness statement and was asked a number of questions. The salient parts of her evidence cane be summarised as follows.

Witness 6 is a former pupil of School A and was best friends with Pupil A at the time of the allegations. They were both 16 years of age when they first met the Respondent.

Witness 6 and Pupil A began attending a lunchtime fitness club that the Respondent had set up soon after he began teaching PE at the school in August 2012. During the regular contact that they had with him at the fitness club, he would speak about his personal life and tell them about the problems he was having with his girlfriend. He would go into detail about his relationships outside of school and would behave in a way that was inappropriate for a teacher for example, he would refer to his girlfriend as “a cow”.

It was quite obvious that the Respondent liked Pupil A because he was “quite touchy feely and flirty with her” as she was to him. They would touch each others arms and legs a lot and sit together rather than using the machines. Witness 6 felt really uncomfortable watching them because she was young and recognised that what was happening was inappropriate.

After a couple of months of attending the fitness club, Pupil A wrote a couple of notes to the Respondent. The first of which she (Witness 6) gave to the Respondent during registration. On receiving the note, the Respondent seemed quite scared and he later told Pupil A that he was going to report the note to his supervisor. However, Witness 6 passed on a further note to the Respondent from Pupil A shortly afterwards, which the Respondent kept and did not report. On delivering the second note, the Respondent even asked Witness 6 if she thought that what he was doing was wrong. She told the Respondent that it was wrong and that he should not be seeing Pupil A.

Maybe a week after sending the note, Witness 6 found out from Pupil A that she had told the Respondent that she had feelings for him.  Sometime later, Pupil A also told her that she was in a relationship with the Respondent.

Witness 6 was aware that the relationship between the Respondent and Pupil A began in October or November 2012 and lasted until the school found out in March 2013. As her best friend, Pupil A would share everything with her and would show her texts, including texts of an explicitly sexual nature, sent by the Respondent. She was aware that the Respondent and Pupil A were intent on keeping the relationship quiet until Pupil A left school after S5. Also, the Respondent had told her and Pupil A not to mention anything about the relationship to anyone.

Witness 6 did not report what was happening to the school because she was only 16 years of age at the time and was scared of upsetting the Respondent because he was teacher and therefore in a position of authority. Also, the Respondent had previously called her things like “tool, cow and bitch” and accused her of being “really jealous of the relationship.” Furthermore, she was aware that Pupil A was in love with the Respondent and did not want to hurt her best friend. She did, however, disclose what was happening via Facebook to a friend and fellow pupil because she felt like she had to tell someone.

Whilst in the beginning she had doubts about whether Pupil A was in a relationship with the Respondent because Pupil A had a tendency to exaggerate, she was left in no doubt about that as time went on. Pupil A always spoke about her relationship with the Respondent in considerable detail, including revealing details about their sex life. She was aware that Pupil A and the Respondent would meet up in an empty car park so that they were alone and that she (Pupil A) would visit the Respondent at his address.  She saw many texts of an explicitly sexual nature sent by the Respondent to Pupil A. In their text conversations they would discuss the sexual things that they wanted to do. On one occasion, Pupil A said she was upset at the Respondent ripping her underwear during sex and in a text sent by the Respondent he asked Pupil A not to wear an item of jewellery because it “jabbed” him in the eye during sex. Also, on a couple of occasions she went with Pupil A to get the morning after pill because Pupil A revealed to her that she had had unprotected sex with Respondent. She was “100%” sure that the Respondent was in a sexual relationship with Pupil A.

After the school found out about the relationship, Witness 6 provided a detailed statement but later retracted it because Pupil A had pressurised her to do so. It was a really “traumatic” time and Pupil A was blaming her for telling the school and everyone was saying “horrible things” about her (Witness 6). She thought that if she retracted her statement the horrible comments would stop and she would regain the friends that she had lost.

Witness 6 stayed on at the school after Pupil A left. She was keen to keep in contact with Pupil A because she could see that she was really hurt by everything. As soon as everything got out, the Respondent cut ties with her, which caused her a great deal of distress. However, as Pupil A did not want to blame her Dad for what had happened she blamed her (Witness 6) instead. As a result, they fell out of contact with each other.

After about a year of not speaking, Pupil A contacted Witness 6 out of the blue. She (Pupil A) was crying down the phone hysterically because she had just broken up with her new boyfriend. There was a brief discussion about what had happened in the past but Pupil A did not really want to talk about it. After the call, they spoke for a couple of months but eventually they became more distant. They are no longer friends for reasons other than what happened with the Respondent.

Prior to leaving school Witness 6 had a discussion with Witness 1 and revealed to her that she had seen a text message sent by the Respondent to Pupil A. In the text message, the Respondent sought to explain why Witness 1 had disclosed to the school what Pupil A had told her by stating that Witness 1 was unhappy with her husband and wanted to f*** the Respondent because she fancied him and that she was jealous because he was f****** her (Pupil A). She (Witness 6) felt that Witness 1 deserved to know about the text because it was about her.

Witness 6 was in no doubt that Pupil A and the Respondent were in a sexual relationship and categorically rejected the Respondent’s account that they were not. Also, during the period of investigation, she heard the Respondent say that he would make out that his mobile phone number was his brother’s in an effort to disguise the fact that he had been in regular phone/text contact with Pupil A. 

Findings in fact and reasons

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and the submissions made by the Presenting Officer in making its findings of fact.

The Panel had in mind that the burden of proof rested on the Presenting Officer throughout and that the standard of proof required is that used in civil proceedings, namely the balance of probabilities.

The Panel’s assessment of all of the witnesses called was that their evidence was consistent with one another and that they were credible and reliable. Having made an assessment of the credibility and reliability of each of the witnesses, the Panel then considered whether the contested allegations had been proved to the required standard.

Allegation 1(a)

In relation to allegation 1(a), the Panel derived a great deal of assistance in deciding whether that allegation was proved from the evidence given by Witness 6. Witness 6 gave evidence in a clear, straightforward and, in the Panel’s view, honest way. She was also consistent in her account and her evidence was entirely in keeping with evidence given by other witnesses, in particular Witness 1.

It was clear from the evidence of Witness 6 that she was very close to Pupil A and that she had witnessed first-hand the way in which Pupil A and the Respondent interacted. She was adamant in her evidence that Pupil A and the Respondent were having a sexual relationship and was able to explain clearly and in detail why she had reached that conclusion. Not only did she observe Pupil A and the Respondent being what she described as “touchy feely” towards each other but, as Pupil A’s best friend, she had regular conversations with her during which Pupil A revealed that she was having sex with the Respondent. She saw many text messages of a sexual nature sent by the Respondent to Pupil A. She had at least one discussion with the Respondent in which he questioned her as to whether she thought he was doing something wrong by seeing Pupil A. Pupil A had pointed out the Respondent’s house and Witness 6 had accompanied Pupil A to a clinic on more than one occasion for the morning after pill after she revealed that she had had unprotected sex with the Respondent.

Furthermore, whilst the Panel had regard to the fact that Pupil A had not provided a witness statement or given evidence, the Panel considered that the evidence of Witness 6 was supported by other evidence.

Witness 5 was able to speak to having seen and examined phone billing relating to Pupil A. She identified many texts and picture messages sent to Pupil A’s phone from a number which could be attributed to the Respondent. The number could be attributed to the Respondent because he gave the same number when completing a staff information form at the beginning of his probationary term. The completed staff information form was included in the bundle of documents lodged by the Presenting Officer. Also, Witness 1 spoke to the Respondent on the same number. The Panel therefore rejected the Respondent’s account that the phone number was not his. The Panel was satisfied instead that the Respondent’s account that the number belonged to his brother was no more than an attempt by him to distance himself from the phone evidence that had been gathered in the course of the investigation. Furthermore, the phone evidence gathered clearly supported the evidence given by Witness 6 that Pupil A and the Respondent were in regular text contact. Witness 6 had also heard the Respondent say that he would make out that his mobile phone number was his brother’s in an effort to disguise the fact that he had been in regular phone/text contact with Pupil A. 

The Panel also considered that the evidence of Witness 6 was supported by the evidence of Witnesses 1 and 2 in particular.

In relation to Witness 1, the Panel considered that she was consistent in her account and that she gave evidence in a straightforward way answering all questions that were asked of her without hesitation. She was able to describe in detail the conversation that she had with Pupil A and was clear in her account that Pupil A revealed to her that she had been “seeing” the Respondent since September 2012. That is consistent with the account given by Witness 6. Furthermore, it was apparent from evidence given by Witness 1 that she knew Pupil A very well because she had taught her regularly. Witness 1 was therefore ideally placed to make an assessment of whether Pupil A was telling her the truth. Having had a detailed conversation with Pupil A, which lasted for approximately one hour and having witnessed first hand that she was very emotional, Witness 1 was of the clear opinion that Pupil A was “besotted” with the Respondent, that she loved him and that they were in a relationship together. That opinion is once again consistent with the evidence given by Witness 6. 

Not only was the evidence given by Witness 1 in keeping with the evidence given by Witness 6, there were also other details in the account given by Witness 1 of her conversation with Pupil A, which were supported by other witnesses. By way of example, Witness 1 described being told by Pupil A that she spent some days with the Respondent at a hotel on Dublin Street in Edinburgh. That information is consistent with the information provided by Pupil A’s father to Witness 5 (Investigating Officer).

On the basis that the evidence of Witness 1 was supported by other evidence, the Panel attached greater weight to the hearsay account given by Witness 1 than might have otherwise been the case.

In relation to Witness 2, the Panel again considered that he was a credible and reliable witness. He gave a clear, detailed and consistent account of the discussion that he had with Pupil A’s father during their meeting. Witness 2 was adamant that during the meeting Pupil A’s father said that his daughter was having a sexual relationship with the Respondent. Furthermore, the account given by Witness 2 of what Pupil A’s father said at the meeting was consistent with what he (Pupil A’s father) later told the Investigating Officer (Witness 5).

The Panel also found that there was consistency between Witnesses 1-3 and Witness 6 in that all of them, in their own way, described the Respondent as being unable to maintain appropriate professional boundaries. They all described the Respondent as being very informal with pupils and Witness 6 gave a detailed account of the ways in which the Respondent would behave differently to any other teacher. The account given by the witnesses of the Respondent’s character reinforced the Panel in its view that he had failed to maintain professional boundaries by entering into an inappropriate sexual relationship with Pupil A.

Having regard to the totality of the evidence referred to above, the Panel was in no doubt that between the dates specified in allegation 1(a) the Respondent formed an inappropriate sexual relationship with Pupil A. Moreover, the Panel was entirely satisfied that the Respondent was fully aware that the relationship was inappropriate. He was significantly older than Pupil A at the time and as a teacher at the school he was in a positon of trust.

According to the evidence of Witness 3, which the Panel accepted, the Respondent was fully versed in child protection procedures and the policies of the school and must have known therefore that what he was doing was wrong. Also, it was clear from the evidence, particularly the evidence of Witness 6, that the Respondent had attempted to cover up the relationship, a further indicator that he knew the relationship was inappropriate. Witness 6 also described being told by Pupil A that the Respondent wanted nobody to know about the relationship in case they got into trouble.
The Panel therefore found allegation 1(a) proved in its entirety.

Allegation 1(c)

The Panel next considered whether allegation 1(c) was proved. Having found the evidence of Witnesses 1 and 2 to be credible and reliable for the reasons previously given, the Panel was satisfied that this allegation was also proved.

Witness 2 was clear in his evidence that during his meeting with the Respondent he emphasised to him that during his period of suspension he should not mention anything to anyone about the complaint because it was confidential. Witness 1 was equally clear that when the Respondent visited her address he revealed to her in conversation that an allegation had been made against him about inappropriate conduct with a pupil. Witness 1 also clearly described how the Respondent had asked her to find out whether another teacher had provided a statement and in a further text message demanded to know whether she (Witness 1) had also provided a statement.

Having accepted the evidence of both witnesses the Panel was satisfied that allegation 1(c) was proved in its entirety.

Fitness to Teach

Given that the Panel found all of the allegations set out in the complaint proved, the Panel invited the Presenting Officer to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Respondent’s fitness to teach.

Presenting Officer’s Submissions

The Presenting Officer submitted that the Respondent’s conduct had fallen significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher. She submitted that by his conduct, the Respondent had breached parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 2.3, 2.4, 4.1 and 4.3 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct 2012 (COPAC).

It was submitted that the Respondent’s conduct was very serious and covered a large period of time. Allegation 1(a) was particularly serious because it involved an abuse of a position of trust. Furthermore, Pupil A was only 16 years of age at the time and was vulnerable. Allegations 1(b) and (c) demonstrated that the Respondent has no regard for instruction and, in respect of allegation 1(c), the Respondent had made his colleague, Witness 1, feel deeply uncomfortable.

It was pointed out that the Respondent had pled guilty at the Sheriff Court to allegations 2(b) and (c) and that, in any event, he now accepts paragraph 2 of the complaint in its entirety. The offences in paragraph 2 of the complaint involved the Respondent behaving aggressively towards other members of the teaching profession, threatening them with violence and using actual violence towards a Senior Education Manager resulting in her injury. The Respondent had also assaulted two Police Officers to their injury when they were called to the scene. It was submitted that aggressive and violent conduct of that type, committed in a working environment, was difficult to remediate.

Also, beyond admitting some of the allegations, it was highlighted by the Presenting Officer that there was no evidence of remorse from the Respondent, that he had remediated the misconduct or that he has any insight into what he did.

In summary, it was submitted that the Respondent’s conduct is fundamentally incompatible with being a registered teacher and that he is unfit to teach. Furthermore, that public confidence in the teaching profession and in the GTCS as a Regulator would be undermined if such a finding were not made.

Findings on Fitness to Teach

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

The Panel was satisfied that the Respondent’s conduct at the time fell significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher. The Respondent was clearly in a position of trust at the time he decided to enter into a sexual relationship with Pupil A, who was considerably younger than him. He made that decision despite being trained in child protection procedures and the policies of the school. He had attempted to cover his tracks in different ways and tried to gain an advantage by obtaining information about the investigation from Witness 1. In the course of the investigation that followed, he behaved in a threatening and violent manner towards fellow teachers and the Police. In the Panel’s assessment, the Respondent was clearly guilty of misconduct having breached Parts 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 2.3, 2.4, 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3 of COPAC.

The next question for the Panel was whether the Respondent was currently unfit to teach or impaired. In deciding that question, the Panel considered whether the Respondent’s conduct was remediable, whether it had been remedied and the likelihood of the conduct being repeated.

The Panel considered that the Respondent’s conduct would be very difficult to remediate. In the Panel’s assessment the Respondent’s conduct, taken as whole, revealed him to have deep seated attitudinal problems. He had deliberately ignored advice given to him by other more experienced colleagues about how he should interact with pupils. By entering into a sexual relationship with Pupil A he had chosen to ignore the child protection procedures, which he knew well and the policies of the school. There were also many examples of the Respondent’s aggressive and/or violent personality. Whilst the Panel did note that previous medical evidence had been submitted showing that the Respondent has a history of depression, there was no evidence that he was unware of what he was doing at the relevant time or that his symptoms of depression caused him to behave in the way described in the complaint.

There was also no evidence before the Panel that the Respondent had remedied his misconduct. Beyond admitting some of the allegations, he provided no evidence or remorse, remediation or insight. Given the lack of such evidence, the Panel could not be satisfied that the Respondent’s conduct would not be repeated.

In all of those circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Respondent’s conduct, taken as a whole, was fundamentally incompatible with being a registered teacher and that he is currently unfit to teach. The Panel was equally satisfied that the public interest requires the Respondent’s removal from the Register. The Panel considered that the Respondent’s conduct was so serious that not to make a finding that he is unfit to teach would result in public confidence in the teaching profession and in the GTCS as a regulator being undermined. Furthermore, the Panel considered that the public required to be protected from the type of conduct committed by the Respondent.

Disposal

As the Panel determined that the Respondent is unfit to teach, in accordance with the terms of Article 18(2)(b) of the Public Services Reform (General Teaching Council for Scotland) Order 2011, the Respondent will be removed from the Register.

Once the Respondent has been removed from the Register, the Respondent remains so removed unless and until an application for re-registration is made by him and a Fitness to Teach Panel directs that the application be granted.

The Panel directed that the Respondent should be prohibited from making an application for re-registration for a period of 2 years from the date of its decision.  The Panel considered that a shorter time period was inappropriate given the seriousness of the complaint found proved and the lack of evidence to show that the Respondent has remediated or is unlikely to repeat the type of conduct set out in the complaint.

Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007

The Panel decided to exercise its discretion to make a referral under section 8 of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 in order that Scottish Ministers may consider whether or not the Respondent should be barred from working with children. The Panel decided to do so because it considered that a referral ground set out in section 2 of that Act is met in that the Respondent engaged in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature involving a child.

Appeal

The Respondent will receive written notice of this decision within 14 days and has the right to appeal to the Court of Session against the decision within 28 days of the date of service of that written notice. The Respondent will remain on the Register until the appeal period has expired and any appeal lodged within that period has been determined.