The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Panel Consideration and Anonymity Application Outcome

20 September 2019

 Teacher  Teacher Z - not present (represented)
 Registration Number  XXXXXX
 Registration category  Secondary
 Panel  Gillian Fagan, Susan McDade and David Tierney
 Legal Assessor  Julie McKinlay
 Servicing Officer  Louise Jackson
 Teacher'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
  • 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
  • "COPAC" means the GTCS Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Notification of meeting

The Panel had before it a copy of the notice dated 12 September 2019. The Panel was satisfied that the Teacher had been provided with notice of the meeting in accordance with rules 1.6 and 2.3.1. Accordingly, the Panel proceeded to consider the case.

Allegation(s)

  1.  It is alleged that you, Teacher Z whilst employed as a registered teacher at School A:
    1. appeared on 13 June 2018 at approximately 8am, under the influence of alcohol dressed only in boxer shorts and trainers on a public road, and a video clip of you in such a state was posted on Facebook by a pupil;
    2. on 13 June 2018, acted in a threatening and abusive manner to medical personnel;
    3. were charged on 10 July 2018 with a criminal offence as a result of your conduct at (b) above and failed to disclose the charge to your employer.
  2. It is alleged that you Teacher Z were convicted on 8 January 2019 at Sherriff Court A under section 38(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 and in the respect of this you were sentenced on 30 January 2019 to a £240 fine.

Information available to the panel:

  1.  Final Investigation report with appendices including:
    • Disciplinary Investigation Report by Local Authority Representative A of Local Authority A including appendices:
      • Chronological description of events
      • Letters to Teacher Z of Suspension and Notification of Investigation dated 21 June 2018
      • Teacher Z Statement dated 17 August 2018
      • Witness Statement Witness 1
      • Witness Statement Witness 2
      • Investigatory Interview Statement of Teacher Z dated 17 August 2018
      • Local Authority A’s Standard/Courier Extracts dated 13 July 2018
      • Teacher Z Absence Record 17 August 2017- 1 July 2018
      • Court Order with details of Criminal Offences (submitted on 21 August 2018 by Teacher Z as requested on 17 August 2018)
      • Update on court appearance provided by Teacher Z on 21 August 2018
      • GTCS- Conditional Registration Order dated 20 February 2017
      • Statement from Witness 2 in relation to social media video, updated
      • Education Services Disciplinary Policy, Procedure and Guidance (Teachers and Associated Professionals 2015)
      • Maximising Attendance Policy
      • Substance Misuse Policy 2015
    • Email from the Teacher’s Representative Alastair Milne of Balfour and Manson dated 28 February 2019 regarding removal with consent
    • Email from the Teacher’s Representative Alastair Milne of Balfour and Manson dated 20 march 2019 regarding the Teacher’s admissions
    • Extract Conviction Report from Sheriff Court A printed 11 April 2019
    • Decision Annex Full Hearing 20 February 2017
    • Signed Conditional Registration Order
    • Letter from Alastair Milne Balfour and Manson to GTCS dated 15 July 2019
    • Letter from Alastair Milne Balfour and Manson to GTCS dated 5 September 2019 waiving 28 day period
  2. Application for Anonymity dated 5 September 2019
  3. Notice of Investigation dates 13 November 2018
  4. Notice of Panel Consideration dated 2 September 2019
  5. Notice of Panel Consideration cover email and delivery receipt dated 12 September 2019

Teacher's Response

The Teacher admitted the allegations in full. The Teacher was prepared to agree to Removal with Consent from the register.

Decision

The Panel considered all of the information available to it as described above. The Panel had a range of options open to it, as set out at rule 2.3.2 (a) to (f). The Panel had regard to the factors set out in the GTCS Panel Consideration Practice Statement.

The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dispose of the case in accordance with rule 2.3.2 (a). The Panel reached this conclusion for the following reasons:

  • The matter amounts to relevant conduct and there is, on the face of it, a real prospect of a finding that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is impaired. The Panel considered the following factors relevant in that the conduct alleged relates to:

    • Abuse of a teacher's position of trust
    • Behaviour of a violent, aggressive or threatening nature
    • Substance abuse or misuse

    The Panel considered the relevant Parts of COPAC to be:

    • Part 1 - Professionalism and maintaining trust in the profession
    • Part 2 - Professional responsibilities towards Pupils
    • Part 4 - Professionalism towards Colleagues, Parents and Carers.
  • The matter is not over 5 years of age.
  • The matter has not already been considered.
  • The matter is not frivolous or vexatious.
  • The allegation(s) have not been made anonymously or by a person who has failed to cooperate with the investigation.

The Panel did not consider it appropriate to dismiss the case on the basis of an insufficiency of evidence as provided for by rule 2.3.2 (b). The allegation(s) have been admitted by the Teacher. Furthermore, the Panel did not consider the referral to be malicious.

Fitness to Teach

The Panel went on to consider the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel carefully considered all of the available information and had regard to Part A of the GTCS Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases – Indicative Outcomes Guidance in considering whether the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired.

The Panel first considered whether the conduct fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher at the time of the allegations. The Panel carefully considered the parts of COPAC and concluded that the Teacher had been in breach of Parts 1.2; 1.3; 1.4; 1.6; 2.3 and 4.1 of COPAC. The Teacher had failed to act as a role model for pupils. The conduct of the Teacher was in breach of the criminal law and called into question his fitness to teach. The conduct fell below the personal and professional standards expected of Teachers.

The Panel next considered whether the conduct was remediable, had been remediated and whether there was a likelihood of recurrence. The Panel considered that the conduct was of a type that could be remedied. The conduct appeared to the Panel to have occurred as a direct consequence of the Teacher’s misuse of alcohol. In determining if the conduct had been remedied and the likelihood of recurrence, the Panel had regard, in particular, to the evidence of Medical Professional A. The medical evidence before the Panel specifies that the Teacher has a [redacted]. The Panel further noted that the current state of the Teacher’s health is of considerable concern including a [redacted]. The conduct was serious and, while the Teacher had cooperated with the GTCS, it was clear that the Teacher had not as yet remediated the conduct. There was no evidence before the Panel that the Teacher had done so. The medical evidence was that the Teacher was [redacted].  The Panel was mindful that a previous matter dealt with by the GTCS involved the use of alcohol. In the circumstances, the Panel considered that at this point in time the likelihood of recurrence was high.

Further, having regard to the public interest the Panel considered that a finding of impairment was necessary. The Panel considered that such a finding was necessary to protect the public and pupils and to maintain confidence in the profession and the GTCS as regulator.

The Panel considered whether the Teacher had fallen significantly short of the standards expected, meaning that he is unfit to teach. The Panel considered that having regard to the very serious nature of the conduct, the high risk of recurrence and the public interest considerations that the Teacher falls significantly short of the standards expected. 

For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the Teacher is currently unfit to teach.

Disposal

As the Panel determined that the Teacher 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, it could only direct that the Teacher be removed from the Register.

The Panel had regard to the Teacher’s position and decided to issue a consent order in accordance with rule 2.7 offering the Teacher the opportunity to consent to removal from the Register. Should such consent be provided, the Panel considered 1 year an appropriate period of time before the Teacher be able to apply for re-registration. This would, in the view of the Panel, be sufficient time (should the Teacher decide to do so) to allow the Teacher to demonstrate that he had taken sufficient steps in his recovery to be considered fit to teach. The Panel considered that 2 years had the potential to discourage the Teacher from taking steps to recover sufficiently to at some point return to teaching should he wish to do so. The terms of the consent order are set out in the separate “Consent Order” document.

Should the Teacher fail to provide his consent to the order, the case is to be referred on for hearing proceedings.

Application for Anonymity

The Teacher made the following application:

(a) For his name to be anonymised in the decision of the fitness to teach panel hearing considering his application for removal with consent.

The application was made in writing by application dated 5 September 2019 which included a report from Medical Professional A dated 26 February 2019.

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 decided that the application for anonymisation in accordance with Rule 1.7.3 (b) should be granted. The Panel had regard to the Health and Medical Evidence Practice Statement. The Panel concluded from the evidence of Medical Professional A in his report dated 26 February 2019, that the criteria set down in the practice statement in respect of medical evidence was met. The Teacher has a specific diagnosis for a [redacted]. In particular, Medical Professional A reports that the Teacher presents [redacted]. In relation specifically to the anonymisation of proceedings, Medical Professional A requests that all measures possible be taken to protect the Teacher’s anonymity.  Medical Professional A reports that he “would feel deeply uncomfortable on a professional level with any process that may unnecessarily exacerbate Teacher Z’s level of [redacted]. If this were to occur in my opinion Teacher Z’s risk of [redacted]”.

The Panel noted that the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement provides that where intimate or sensitive details of the physical or mental health of a Teacher are to be raised, that may justify granting anonymity to protect the privacy of the Teacher, as may the impact of a public hearing on the Teacher’s health. The Panel was of the view that the conduct appeared to arise as a consequence of the health of the Teacher, and as such the entire case concerned intimate and sensitive details of the Teacher’s health. As a consequence, and having regard to the evidence of Medical Professional A as to the impact of any publication on the Teacher’s health, the anonymisation of the Panel Consideration Meeting was considered appropriate and proportionate in the circumstances.

The Panel considered that in all the circumstances it was necessary for the outcome of the Panel Consideration Meeting 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 put him at risk.  The interests of the public in the identity of the Teacher being made public were outweighed by the interests of the Teacher in all the circumstances.