The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Procedural Meeting

20 September 2019

 Teacher   Teacher B
 Registration Number XXXXXX
 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

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

The Teacher made the following application:

  1. For the name of the Teacher to be anonymised in the published decision of the full Fitness to Teach hearing.

The Teacher’s representative made the application in writing following the Full Hearing which took place in 2019 which was accompanied by a report from Medical Professional A dated 27 March 2019. A further medical report from Medical Professional A was produced dated 17 September 2019 in support of the application. 

The Presenting Officer responded in writing to the application. The application was unopposed although 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.

Evidence

  1. Teacher's submissions on anonymity application
  2. Full Hearing Decision, dated 2019
  3. Presenting Offer's submissions on anonymity application

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 the Full Hearing be anonymised.

The Panel decided that the outcome of the Full Hearing should be anonymised.  The Panel noted that the case against the Teacher had been dismissed. However, the Teacher sought to be anonymised in the published decision. The Panel had regard to the Health and Medical Evidence Practice Statement. The Panel concluded from the evidence of Medical Professional A in his reports of 27 March and 17 September 2019 that the criteria set down in the practice statement in respect of medical evidence was met. A psychometric evaluation was carried out by Medical Professional A which was indicative of severe levels [health information redacted]. These scores have increased since the previous tests were carried out in March 2019 despite the outcome being known. The Teacher has a diagnosis of [health information redacted]. Medical Professional A reported that the Teacher “continues to report significant upset and worry about the future prospects of publicity in relation to her case.” There remains some evidence of [health information redacted] but without specific intent to act on such thoughts.

The Panel considered that in all the circumstances it was necessary for the outcome 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 an adverse effect on her health. This was in the view of the Panel specifically so when the Teacher did, despite the case being dismissed, wish the outcome to be confidential. The publication of the outcome would satisfy the public interest in understanding the process and the reasons for the dismissal 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