The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Enhancing professionalism in education since 1965

Panel Meeting - 19 October 2018

Panel Meeting

19 October 2018

 Teacher  XXXXXXXX Present (represented)
Registration Number XXXXXXXX
 Registration category XXXXXXXX
 Panel  Tony Bragg, John Kilpatrick, Lily Proudfoot
 Legal Assessor  Una Doherty Q.C.
 Servicing Officer  Louise Jackson
 Presenting Officer  Robbie Wilson - not present
 Respondent's representative  Graeme Watson, Clyde & Co - 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

Background

 The Procedural Meeting was arranged to consider the following: 

  1. An application by the Teacher for the identity of the Teacher not to be disclosed in the public version of the fitness to teach panel outcome, under Rule 1.7.3(b).
  2. A related application by the Teacher that the panel should deal with the application on the basis of written representations from the parties, under Rule 2.5.1.

In accordance with the Rules, the meeting was held in private by teleconference call.

Information available to the Panel

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

• Letter from Teacher’s representative dated XXXXXXXXXX containing anonymity application and submissions
• XXXXXXXXXX News article;
• XXXXXXXXXX News article;
• Article from XXXXXXXXXX;
• XXXXXXXXXX News article;
• Link to XXXXXXXXXX article;
• Letter from Teacher’s representative dated XXXXXXXXXX with preliminary application for the hearing to be in private
• Presenting Officer’s submissions on application
• Letter from Teacher’s representative dated XXXXXXXXXX. 

Decision

The Panel considered all the information available to it as well as the relevant Rules and the GTCS’s Privacy and Anonymity practice statement.

The Panel was satisfied that the application should be dealt with on the basis of written representations only, in terms of Rule 2.5.1.

As a starting point the Panel considered the terms of Rule 1.7.3 in the context of the balancing exercise to be carried out by the Panel, when considering making an order that the identities of parties should not be disclosed to the public by use of anonymisation or otherwise. It noted that a Panel required to be satisfied that it was in the interests of justice to do so, and that the circumstances of the case outweighed the interests of the Teacher and the public in having a fully published decision. It also noted the general objective to deal with cases fairly and justly (Rule 1.3.7).

The Panel considered the terms of the Privacy and Anonymity practice statement which provides that the Panel requires to make a decision by carefully and proportionately balancing all the factors in the case, with reference to Articles 6, 8 and 10 of the ECHR.

It considered the submissions made by the Teacher’s representative. In particular it noted that the full hearing had taken place in private and that the allegations were not proved. A previous Panel had granted the application to hold the full hearing in private, given the XXXXXXXXXX content of articles and unsubstantiated allegations made online about the Teacher when the notice of the hearing was published on the GTCS’s website. The previous Panel had considered that it was likely that a public hearing would attract publicity and potentially result in further unacceptable and inappropriate articles, and would cause reputational damage to the Teacher which would be disproportionate to the public interest in having the hearing proceed in public. The previous Panel had determined that it was not appropriate for the Teacher and his family to be subjected to such hateful publicity as a result of the GTCS proceedings.

The Panel noted that the Teacher had had serious concerns about his own and his family’s safety after the media coverage, and that he was concerned about their safety if similar coverage was repeated on publication of the decision of the Panel at the fitness to teach full hearing.

The Panel recognised that the normal practice is for decisions to be published, as part of the GTCS’s commitment to carrying out its functions openly and transparently, to maintain public confidence in its role as a regulator. It recognised, however, that situations do arise when anonymisation may be justified, where the interests of justice are better served by anonymisation than by full publication. It noted that the Presenting Officer did not oppose the application for anonymity.

Having carefully balanced all of the relevant factors, the Panel was satisfied that it was in the interests of justice to anonymise the Teacher’s identity in the published decision. The interest of the Teacher in having the decision anonymised outweighed the public interest in having him identified in the published decision. The allegations were not proved at the full hearing. Although often it would be to a Teacher’s benefit to have published a decision that allegations were not proved, where previously his name had been published with the allegations, the Panel was satisfied that in this case such publication would not be to the Teacher’s benefit. Given the previous media publicity, which was inaccurate and XXXXXXXXXX, there was a real risk of further similarly inaccurate and XXXXXXXXXX media publicity on publication of the decision. There was a need to protect the Teacher and his family’s private life, which outweighed the public interests in publication. Further, publishing the Teacher’s identity in the decision would frustrate the purpose of holding the full hearing in private.

For these reasons, the Panel granted the application for anonymity made on the Teacher’s behalf.