Decision: Charles Tighe (Full Hearing)

GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

Full Hearing

4, 5 and 6 May 2022

TeacherCharles Tighe
Registration Number005132
Registration CategoryPrimary
PanelKathleen McCormick (Convener), Catriona McDonald and Michelle Farrell
Legal AssessorAmanda Pringle
Servicing OfficerHannah Oakley
Presenting OfficerJennifer McPhee, Anderson Strathern
Teacher’s representativeGraeme Watson, Clyde & Co

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 Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them; and
  • the ‘Register’ means the GTC Scotland register of teachers.

Preliminary Issues

Declaration of Interest

The Panel, of its own volition, raised at the outset that one member of the Panel was employed by the same Local Authority as the Teacher had been formerly. The Panel considered the GTC Scotland Conduct at Hearings Practice Statement which sets out that Panel Members should always bear in mind the possibility of a conflict of interest. The Practice Statement goes on to state that ‘it is the responsibility of a Panel Member to judge whether an interest requires declaration’, and that ‘any declaration should be declared, in clear terms, as soon as reasonably practicable following its identification‘. The Panel Member was not declaring a conflict of interest, not knowing the Teacher personally or having worked with him, and having commenced her current role within the Local Authority after their investigation had concluded. However, the Panel wanted to make parties aware of this. Both parties confirmed they had no issue with the constitution of the Panel and were content to proceed. They had no further comments to add on the matter. The Panel considered that a declaration of interest would suffice in the circumstances and there was no conflict present.

Late Papers

The Teacher’s Representative made an application to submit late papers, namely two testimonial letters in support of the Teacher. No objection was raised by the Presenting Officer regarding the admittance of these letters into evidence. Having heard from the parties and after accepting the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that both documents were relevant and that there was no unfairness in admitting them. The Panel decided to admit these documents in accordance with Rule 1.7.17.

Hearsay Evidence

During the course of the full hearing, the Teacher’s Representative made an application for a witness statement of Witness 1 to be admitted as hearsay evidence. The Presenting Officer indicated she had no objection to the application. In considering the application, the Panel was reminded that hearsay evidence is admissible in fitness to teach proceedings, subject to the considerations of relevance and fairness. Additionally, the Panel considered the general objective of the Rules set out at 1.3.7 and 1.3.8, which emphasises the need to seek informality and flexibility in the proceedings. In considering the application, the Panel noted that the application was unopposed. The Panel was content to admit the evidence of Witness 1 as hearsay evidence. The Teacher’s Representative read aloud the witness statement of Witness 1.

Privacy and Anonymity

The Panel of its own volition confirmed a prior Panel’s order that evidence concerning the Teacher’s health, and the private lives of the Teacher, his partners and children, were to be heard in private. The Panel confirmed that, to comply with the previous Panel’s order, dates of birth contained in the allegations should not be stated at any point.

Allegation(s)

The following allegation(s) were considered at the hearing:

  1. On 5 February 2019, you were convicted of the following offences:
    1. On various occasions between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2014, both dates inclusive, you did assault Person A, [redacted], C/O Police Service of Scotland, and did seize her by the body, push her against a wall there, throw her to the floor, empty the contents of a linen basket over her, strike her on the head while she was holding a child in her arms, seize hold of her by the body and throw her from a bathroom into a bedroom and empty the contents of a bucket containing cleaning materials and fluids over her, seize her by the body, throw her onto a bed, strike her on the body with a belt and buckle or similar instrument, repeatedly slap her, repeatedly seize her by the body, throw her against a wall and shake her all to her injury.
    2. On an occasion between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2014 you did assault Person B, [redacted], [redacted], C/O Police Service of Scotland and did pursue her, seize hold of her, repeatedly shake her and pin her to the floor there.
    3. On various occasions between 1 July 2018 and 3 July 2018, you did engage in a course of conduct which caused Person C, [redacted], C/O Police Service of Scotland, fear or alarm in that you did repeatedly send her messages via mobile phone: CONTRARY to Section 39(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 and it was proven in terms of section 1 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 that the aforesaid offence was aggravated by involving abuse of your partner or ex-partner.
    4. On 3 July 2017 you did assault Person C, [redacted], C/O Police Service of Scotland and did struggle with her and forcibly remove Person D, [redacted], born [redacted] from her arms and it was proven in terms of section 1 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 that the aforesaid offence was aggravated by involving abuse of your partner or ex-partner.

And on 7 March 2019 you were sentenced to a Community Payback Order of 18 months and a Non-Harassment Order of 2 years, in respect of the above convictions.

And in light of the above it is alleged that your fitness to teach is impaired, as a result of breaching Parts 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct.

Teacher’s Admissions

The Teacher’s Representative indicated that the Teacher admits all of the allegations and the terms of the criminal sentence. The Teacher’s Representative confirmed that the Teacher denied that his fitness to teach is impaired.

Hearing Papers

In accordance with Rule 1.7.17, the Panel admitted all of the documents and statements listed below as evidence for the purposes of the hearing:

Presenting Officer’s hearing papers

  1. Final Investigation Report, dated 19 August 2019, with appendices including:
  • Initial response to Notice of Investigation letter, dated 26 March 2018, advising of representation from Laura O’Neill, EIS
  • Fact finding pack from South Lanarkshire Council – redacted – part 1
    • Appendix 1 – Fact finding interview 26 September 2017 – [redacted]
    • Appendix 2 – Fact finding interview 26 September 2017 – [redacted]
    • Appendix 3 – Fact finding interview 4 October 2017 – Charles Tighe
    • Appendix 4 – Fact finding interview 21 November 2017 – Charles Tighe
    • Appendix 5 – PVG scheme record dated 24 October 2017
  • Fact finding pack from South Lanarkshire Council – redacted – part 2
    • Appendix 6 – Court document regarding [redacted] from Lanark Sheriff Court
    • Appendix 7 – Emails between Charles Tighe and [redacted]
    • Appendix 8 – Email from Charles Tighe to [redacted]
    • Appendix 9 – Email from Charles Tighe to [redacted] dated 5 October 2017
    • Appendix 10 – Emails between Charles Tighe and [redacted] dated 5 October 2017
    • Appendix 11 – Emails between [redacted] and [redacted] dated 11/12 October 2017
    • Appendix 12 – Information to accused persons when liberated on bail, date of order 10 November 2017
    • Appendix 13 – Charge sheet for Charles Tighe dated 10 November 2017
    • Appendix 14 – Emails between [redacted] and Charles Tighe various dates between 23 November 2017 and 11 December 2017
    • Appendix 15 – Disciplinary Procedures incident report form, South Lanarkshire Council
    • Appendix 16 – Email from Charles Tighe to [redacted] dated 20 December 2017
    • Appendix 17 – Record of telephone call between Charles Tighe and [redacted] dated 27 December 2017
  • [redacted]
  • [redacted]
  • South Lanarkshire Code of Conduct
  • Update from Lanark Sheriff Court
  • Extract of Conviction from Lanark Sheriff Court
  • Response to Interim Report, dated 8 July 2019 with testimonial from [redacted]
  • Email from [redacted]– Independent Domestic Abuse Advocate, dated 18 September 2019
  • Email from [redacted] – [redacted], ASSIST, dated 13 November 2019
  • Copy of birth certificate for Person B – in relation to allegation 1b
  • Further response to Interim Report, dated 13 January 2020

2. Response to Final Report, dated 22 January 2020 from representative

3. Decision of the Fitness to Teach Panel on 19 February 2020

4. Social Work Report, dated 4 March 2019

5. Email from Social Worker, dated 11 May 2020.

Teacher’s hearing papers

  1. Witness statement of Charles Tighe, dated 27 April 2021
  2. Witness statement of Witness 2, dated 10 March 2021 – attended hearing
  3. Witness statement of Witness 1, dated 10 March 2021
  4. Additional testimonial letters (late papers):
  • [redacted], dated 25 April 2022
  • [redacted], dated 27 April 2022.

Servicing Officer’s hearing papers

  1. Notice of Investigation, dated 15 March 2018
  2. Notice of Full Hearing with delivery and read receipts, dated 5 April 2022.

Findings of Fact

The Panel noted that the Teacher had admitted the facts detailed in the allegations. The Panel noted that, on the basis of these admissions, it was able to find the allegations proved in accordance with Rule 1.7.21 and was not required to hear evidence in relation to them.

Summary of Evidence

Given that the Panel found that all of the allegations were proved, the Panel commenced Stage 2 of proceedings and invited the parties to lead evidence and make submissions in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach.

The Teacher

The Teacher had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 27 April 2021, and he confirmed that what was written was accurate. At the outset of his evidence, he read aloud his witness statement. He admitted all the allegations, including that he had breached parts 1.3,1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC. The Teacher outlined his educational qualifications and his teaching experience. He told the Panel that he had been suspended from his teaching post in November 2017 and was dismissed on 18 June 2018. He had been prevented from teaching since then due to the imposition of a Temporary Restriction Order, and has remained unemployed since. The Teacher outlined his current familial relationships and the extent to which these had been repaired. He confirmed that his current partner of 5 years standing, Witness 2, was fully aware of the events and of the criminal conviction. He told the Panel that due to her professional qualifications he had greatly benefitted from ‘free therapy’ throughout their open and honest relationship.

The Teacher explained in detail his shame and deep remorse for his actions and the steps he had taken to remediate his behaviour. He had developed strategies to reduce the risk of misconduct in the future, including practising mindfulness and yoga. He confirmed that the completion of his Community Payback Order had been very humbling and had greatly assisted his insight into the damage that his horrendous actions had effected upon those whom he loved most. The Teacher stated he would always be ashamed of his conduct, and although he does not like being reminded of it, he is aware that it is important that he continues to be. He stated that he will never forgive himself and the changes he has effected in the last 5 years means that talking about his behaviour almost feels like he is talking about someone else.  

When questioned by the Presenting Officer, the Teacher accepted the seriousness of the convictions and that his behaviour had been despicable. However, the Teacher was firm in his position that whilst not seeking to proffer excuses for his behaviour, he had put in place coping strategies which, by repeated daily practice, would ensure that there would never be any repetition of the conduct. The Teacher stated that he could see a theme of every incident having taken place when he was stressed, and that he had taken stress from work home with him. The Teacher pointed to the intervening period of 5 years since the conviction in which he had been faced with a number of stressors but which had not resulted in any further incidents. The Teacher accepted that his actions would cause concern to members of the public and that he had deserved to be punished. The Teacher stated that parents of pupils he may teach in the future will have questions, and rightly so. He stated that he hoped parents would understand that his behaviour was in the past, and that there had been no concerns since the conduct from any agency that he posed a risk to children. He told the Panel that whilst his conduct in the past had been despicable, he now had an excellent support network, including his current partner, and felt equipped to deal with any future risks should he be allowed to return to teaching. He expressed his confidence that his reflections, married with the steps and additional strategies he had worked on and put in place, would ensure no future repetition of the conduct. The Teacher said that he had put in a lot of work to remediate his conduct, and that he misses teaching, which he considers to be his vocation in life. The Teacher detailed the means by which he has kept up-to-date with teaching practice. The Teacher expressed his firm belief that the public could be reassured he was now fit to be afforded a second chance to return to classroom teaching.   

Witness 2

Witness 2 had provided a statement to GTC Scotland which was signed and dated 10 March 2021, and she confirmed that what was written was accurate. At the outset of her evidence, the witness read her statement aloud. She outlined her professional qualifications in nursing and psychotherapy which included working with both victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse. She outlined the nature and extent of her personal relationship with the Teacher which had commenced in July 2017, and confirmed the rebuilding of his relationships with his children and former partners. She stated that the Teacher had fully informed her of his conduct and conviction from the outset of their relationship. She provided detail on the practical steps taken by the Teacher in self-improvement and the range of strategies he had put in place to cope with stress and pressure. She was firm in her opinion that this had fitted him well for a return to teaching as he was fully able to cope with different types of stress. She described the Teacher now as a very calm person, whose behaviour was predictable and that he was ‘good under pressure’. She stated that she was fully confident of the Teacher’s ability to return to teaching and that it would be safe for pupils to allow his return to the classroom.

Witness 2 stated that the Teacher is proud to teach and speaks about it with great fondness. When questioned by the Presenting Officer, she spoke to conversations she and the Teacher have had specifically around stressors within the classroom environment and how he would cope with these. Witness 2 stated that they had discussed how teaching has changed since the pandemic, what he would have to learn and how he would have to adapt to accommodate these changes. Witness 2 stated that, in her view, the coping strategies the Teacher had learnt and implemented would transfer very well to stressors within the teaching environment. He has a good understanding of what strategies to use depending on the type of stress he is experiencing and whether it is immediate/short-term or long-term stress.

Findings on Fitness to Teach

The Presenting Officer submitted that the conduct which had been admitted by the Teacher was sufficient to amount to a finding that he was unfit to teach. She submitted that the public interest factor was engaged and that the Teacher’s conduct risked the reputation of the teaching profession, and that it would impact public confidence in GTC Scotland as a professional regulator if a finding of impairment was not made. She submitted that the allegations admitted by the Teacher were of a very serious nature, which were aggravated by a prolonged period of violence against three women in a close domestic setting. The Presenting Officer noted the Teacher‘s acceptance of culpability and the passage of time since the events but she submitted this did not alleviate the seriousness of the conduct found proved. She submitted that with significant changes in teaching in the intervening period, the Teacher had provided limited evidence of his robustness were he to encounter any ‘triggering events’ within the classroom. She invited the Panel to find the Teacher as unfit to teach due to the seriousness of the conduct and the multiple breaches of COPAC. However, were the Panel not to be so minded she invited the Panel to find that the Teacher’s fitness to teach is currently impaired due to the over-riding public interest. 

The Teacher’s Representative submitted that the Teacher had not sought to challenge the despicable nature of his behaviour nor had he sought to detract from the seriousness of his criminal offences. He submitted that the Panel should consider the Teacher’s reflective piece and that the Teacher had fully accepted his punishment. He submitted that it is central to the justice system that a person could effect reform on their behaviours and that the Teacher had fully demonstrated that he has done so. He submitted that the Panel should take account of the following factors when reaching a proportionate determination: the Teacher’s prior unblemished teaching career; his open admissions of guilt both at court and before GTC Scotland; the Teacher’s extensive reflections and genuine remorse; the Teacher’s extensive steps taken to ensure prevention of any reoccurrence; and that his current relationship underlined the extent of the changes he had effected. The Teacher‘s Representative submitted that the wholly understandable public interest would be sufficiently addressed by the Teacher’s conviction and punishment married to the intervening 5 years during which the Teacher had imbedded significant changes in his life whilst continuing to care for his own children. The Teacher’s Representative invited the Panel to take account of the Teacher’s ‘effective suspension’ from teaching due to the TRO imposed since 28 June 2018. He invited the Panel to find that the Teacher was not currently impaired. He submitted that were the Panel not to be so minded, that the Panel’s determination should be of current impairment with no question of the Teacher being unfit to teach.

The Panel gave careful consideration to all of the evidence presented and submissions made by the parties in relation to the Teacher’s fitness to teach. The Panel considered advice from the Legal Assessor and Servicing Officer, as necessary. The Panel addressed the relevant considerations in relation to fitness to teach, as outlined in the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Conduct Cases –  Indicative Outcomes Guidance Practice Statement (‘IOG’).

The Panel were first required to consider whether the Teacher’s conduct at the time of the incident(s) fell short of the expected professional standards, that is whether the Teacher was guilty of misconduct.

The Teacher had admitted breaches of Parts 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6 of COPAC. The Panel had no difficulty in satisfying itself that these parts of COPAC had been breached. The Panel considered that these are all fundamental standards upon which all professional standards are built. The Panel noted the Teacher’s conduct had breached the criminal law and that domestic abuse had been an aggravating factor in the offences against three vulnerable female victims over an extended period of time. 

The Panel had no doubts that the Teacher‘s behaviour constituted misconduct as defined in the case of Roylance v GMC [2000] 1 AC 311 and that his conduct fell short of the standards expected of a registered teacher at the material time.

Having found that the proven allegations amounted to misconduct, the Panel then went on to consider, with reference to the IOG, whether the conduct was remediable, whether it had been remedied and whether there a likelihood of reoccurrence. The Panel understood that it had to consider the Teacher’s current fitness to teach, rather than at the time that the facts found proved took place.

In order to assist it with its decision making, the Panel firstly considered the credibility and reliability of the witnesses who had given oral evidence at stage 2 of the hearing.

The Panel felt that the Teacher came across as genuine and honest. He had answered some uncomfortable questions about his conduct in a composed and controlled manner. His evidence was consistent with all the facts known, and with evidence he had previously provided. The Panel considered that the Teacher was trying to be objective, to the extent he could be considering his interest in the outcome. The Panel considered that the Teacher’s evidence was probable, and that he was a credible and reliable witness. The Panel considered they could place a good amount of weight on his evidence.

In relation to Witness 2, the Panel felt that her evidence was somewhat vague in places, and that this was likely due to an overprotectiveness of the Teacher. The Panel felt Witness 2 was respectful towards proceedings and that she was being honest. It considered that her evidence was probable, and was consistent with the facts already known, as well as with the evidence provided by the Teacher. The Panel noted that the witness is not a teacher and that her evidence around the application of the Teacher’s coping strategies within the classroom was her opinion. The Panel considered that Witness 2 was a credible and reliable witness, but that she was not particularly well placed to form an objective view because of her relationship with the Teacher and meeting him after the conduct had occurred. The Panel considered it could place slightly less weight on Witness 2’s evidence.

The Panel considered that whilst the shortfalls lay at the most serious end of the spectrum, they were capable of being remedied. The Panel noted that during the intervening period of 4 years since the Teacher’s most recent conviction, there had been no repetition by him of the conduct. The Panel noted further that the Teacher had fully accepted the abhorrent and unacceptable nature of his conduct, and its lasting impact upon his vulnerable victims. The Panel noted the Teacher’s acceptance in full of culpability, his early completion of the court’s conviction terms in addition to his extensive reflection and self-improvement activities. In terms of the likelihood of reoccurrence, the Panel noted the Teacher’s reassurances that the behaviour would never happen again, which were supported by his current partner. The Panel considered the Teacher to be genuine with regard to his change in character effected over an extended period of time and to the rebuilding of his relationships with his children, and to a lesser extent those of his ex-partners. The Panel noted the hearsay evidence of Witness 1 with regard to the changes effected by the Teacher and the extent of his remediation. The Panel also considered that it could be confident of a low likelihood of reoccurrence due not only to the passage of time without incident, but also due to the changes effected by the Teacher to his personal relationships, lifestyle and self-management.  Accordingly, the Panel were satisfied that the conduct, albeit at the most serious end of the scale, was capable of being remedied, that the Teacher had evidenced his remediation and that there was a low risk of recurrence. 

The Panel considered that the public perception of the seriousness of the allegations would be high and that the public would consider the actions of the Teacher as misconduct. The Panel did not consider that a finding that the teacher is unfit to teach was required in the public interest. The Panel was of the view that whilst the allegations were at the high end of the spectrum, there had been no repetition in the intervening 4 years and that the Teacher had fully accepted culpability and complied with his conviction terms. The Panel noted that prior to the events under consideration, the Teacher had an unblemished, 14-year teaching career. The Panel also noted that the events had occurred wholly out with the classroom and teaching environment. The Panel concluded that the public interest was strongly engaged and it accepted the Presenting Officer’s submissions that the seriousness of the conduct was such that a finding of impairment was needed to uphold professional standards and public confidence in the profession. Those would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.

Accordingly, for the reasons set out above, the Panel determined that the Teacher’s conduct falls short of the standards expected of a registered teacher and that a finding of impairment of his fitness to teach was required in the public interest.

Disposal

Having found the Teacher’s fitness to teach impaired, the Panel went on to hear submissions from the parties and legal advice as to the disposals available to it.

The Presenting Officer summarised the options available to the Panel and the relevant factors to be taken into account, with reference to the IOG. She submitted that disposal was entirely a matter for the Panel.

The Teacher’s Representative adopted his written submissions. He submitted that a Reprimand would be an appropriate and proportionate outcome in the particular circumstances of the case, and would be sufficient to meet the public interest in the case. He highlighted the following factors as being relevant: (i) the Teacher‘s actions, whilst wholly unacceptable, were out with a teaching environment; (ii) there has been no repetition since the time of the allegations found proved; (iii) the conduct is remediable and has been remedied; (iv) there is strong evidence of the Teacher‘s reflection, insight and remedial activities, including positive testimonials; (v) the conduct sits alongside an otherwise unblemished teaching career; (vi) the Teacher has admitted all of the allegations and fully reflected; (vii) the Teacher has shown genuine remorse; (viii) and he has positively engaged with GTC Scotland. The Teacher’s Representative invited the Panel to consider in the alternate that a Reprimand combined with a Conditional Registration Order (‘CRO’) with conditions would meet the public interest. He submitted that the Teacher would accept and comply with any conditions which the Panel deemed fit to attach to a CRO.

The Panel gave careful consideration to these submissions and to all of the documents submitted, including the character references for the Teacher, in considering the disposals available to it in order of least to greatest severity (Giele v GMC). The Panel addressed the relevant considerations as outlined in Part B of the IOG.

The Panel first considered a Reprimand. It considered that whilst it was an appropriate sanction, it alone would be insufficient to meet the over-riding public interest in the Teacher’s conduct. Whilst no harm had been caused to a pupil and the Teacher had admitted the conduct found proved, the Panel considered that a teacher remained a role model both within and out with the classroom and teaching environment. The Panel considered that as the events lay at the serious end of this type of conduct, it would be insufficient to meet the public interest to impose a Reprimand alone.

The Panel for similar reasons considered that a Conditional Registration Order alone was not appropriate in all the circumstances of the case. The Panel noted that the Teacher was not currently employed. In light of the Teacher’s submissions that he was keen to return to classroom teaching, the Panel was of the view that there were workable conditions that it could impose in the particular set of circumstances. However, the Panel considered that given the seriousness of the conduct found proved, that a CRO alone would be insufficient to meet the over-riding public interest.

The Panel considered that a joint CRO and Reprimand was sufficient in all the circumstances of the case. The Panel noted that the Teacher had fully reflected and taken extensive steps to remediate. The Panel considered the Teacher‘s remorse to be genuine and comprehensive.

The Panel noted that there had been no repetition of the behaviour once issues were raised with the relevant authorities and that the Teacher had fully complied with court imposed sentencing conditions. The Panel had determined that there was a low likelihood of reoccurrence. The Panel noted the Teacher‘s firm commitment to returning to classroom teaching were he to be permitted to do so. The Panel was therefore of the view that workable conditions could be imposed which would ensure public protection, and most importantly protection of children and young people. The Panel considered that a joint CRO and Reprimand would satisfy the over-riding public interest in the particular circumstances of the case; this would appropriately indicate the seriousness of the conduct to the profession and the public and would thus maintain public confidence in teachers and the teaching profession.  The Panel considered that conditions should involve the Teacher requiring to notify any employer or prospective employer of this decision, informing GTC Scotland of any commencement or change of employment for which registration is required, and informing GTC Scotland of the commencement of any enquiry, investigation or disciplinary action concerning his conduct (whether this be criminal or related to his employment). The Panel considered that such conditions were proportionate and would be workable, measurable and practicable in the specific circumstances of this case.

The Panel concluded that the CRO and Reprimand Order should be imposed for 2 years. That was the maximum duration indicated by the IOG and permitted under the 2011 Order. The Panel selected that period due to the seriousness of the misconduct and to provide protection of members of the public, in particular children and young people, both in terms of the classroom and teaching environment, and beyond. 

Accordingly, the Panel directed that the Teacher’s registration be subject to a CRO and Reprimand for an aggregated period of 2 years from the date of the notice of this decision being issued to the Teacher. The conditions are specified within the attached CRO and a Reprimand will be recorded against the Teacher’s entry in the GTC Scotland Register.

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