The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Outcome

Procedural Meeting

20 September 2019

 Teacher Teacher M
 Registration Number /
 Registration category Primary
 Panel Gillian Fagan, Susan McDade and David Tierney
 Legal Assessor Julie McKinlay
 Servicing Officer Louise Jackson
 Teacher's representative Martin Walker, Balfour + Manson (not present)
 Presenting Officer Natalie McCartney, Anderson Strathern (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 2012 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them.

Anonymity Application

The Teacher made the following application:

  1. For the name of the Teacher to be anonymised in the published Removal with Consent Order.

 

The Teacher’s representative made the application in writing which was accompanied by a report from Dr P dated 26 August 2019 in support of the application.

The Presenting Officer responded in writing to the application. The Presenting Officer adopted a neutral position. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to have regard to the Rules, the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement and the Health Matters and Medical Evidence Practice Statement as well as the public interest considerations. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Panel ought to weigh up all the relevant considerations in the Practice Statement when determining if the interests of the Teacher outweigh the interests of the public in the case.

Evidence

  1. Teacher’s Application for Anonymity
  2. Presenting Officer’s Response to Application for Anonymity
  3. Signed Removal with Consent Order, dated 1 August 2019

Decision

In reaching its decision, the Panel considered Rules 1.7.2, and 1.7.3 as well as the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement and the Health Matters and Medical Evidence Practice Statement.

The starting point was rule 1.7.2, which sets out that hearings will be held in public. This is the default position. However, Rule 1.7.3 provides that:

“A Panel may at any stage in 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 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 are not 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 Practice Statement makes clear that it is for the Panel to decide whether all or part of a hearing should be held in private (or any part of the proceedings be anonymised), but that decision must be justified by exception where it serves the interests of justice better than a hearing in public. The Practice Statement makes clear that the decision of a Panel must be consistent with Article 6(1) of the ECHR. It might be appropriate for a private hearing or anonymity application to be allowed where the protection of the private life of the parties so requires. The Panel was clear that they must be 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 or otherwise anonymised.

The Panel noted that in accordance with Rules 1.7.3 (b) it was open to them to order that the outcome of proceedings be anonymised.

The Panel decided that the Teacher should be anonymised in the Removal with Consent Order. The Panel had regard to the Health and Medical Evidence Practice Statement. The Panel concluded from the evidence of Dr P in his report of 26 August 2019 that the criteria set down in the practice statement in respect of medical evidence was met. The Teacher has a diagnosis of [sensitive health information redacted]. Dr P was of the opinion that the publication of the Removal with Consent Order “will be highly damaging to [Teacher M]’s mental health. If the details of her case are to be openly reported, I would be very concerned about further deterioration in her symptoms [sensitive health information redacted].”


The Panel considered that in all the circumstances it was necessary for the Removal with Consent Order to be anonymised. The Panel noted that there was a need to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the Teacher in a situation in which the evidence suggested that to do otherwise would have a highly damaging effect on her health. The publication of the Removal with Consent Order would satisfy the public interest in understanding the process and the outcome of the case against the Teacher without the identification of the Teacher concerned. The interests of the public were outweighed by the interests of the Teacher in all the circumstances.