Panel Meeting – Anonymity Application – Teacher E
|Teacher||Teacher E (not present)|
|Date||17 February 2023|
|Registration Category||Primary Education|
|Panel||Michelle Farrell, Arthur Stewart and Pauline McClellan|
|Legal Assessor||Graeme Dalgleish|
|Servicing Officer||Shumi Bailey|
|Presenting Officer||Martin Walker (not present)|
Any reference in this decision to:
- ‘GTC Scotland’ means the General Teaching Council for Scotland;
- the ‘Panel’ means the Fitness to Teach Panel considering the case; and
- the ‘Rules’ (and any related expression) means the GTC Scotland Fitness to Teach Rules 2017 or refers to a provision (or provisions) within them.
The Panel Meeting was arranged to consider the following:
- An application by the Teacher for their name and registration number to be anonymised in the published Panel Consideration decision, dated 24 June 2022, and associated Removal with Consent Order.
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:
- Anonymity application, including the following supporting evidence:
- Statement from the Teacher, signed and dated 15 June 2022
- [redacted] Report, dated 9 December 2022
- Letter of Support from Social Worker, undated
- Statement of the Teacher requesting anonymity, undated
- Panel Consideration Outcome, dated 24 June 2022
- Panel Consideration Decision Notice, dated 11 August 2022
- Signed Removal with Consent Order, dated 16 August 2022
- Statement from the Teacher, signed and dated 15 June 2022
- Email trail with Teacher’s Representative, dated 3 February 2023
The Panel carefully considered the terms of Rule 2.5.1:
At any stage of proceedings, a Panel of its own volition, on the Convener’s direction or upon the application of a party (in such form as may be specified by the Servicing Officer), may:
(a) determine any interim or preliminary matter that has arisen in the case;
(b) resolve any issues of law; or
(c) consider an application for a case to be cancelled.
Unless a party has (in the relevant application) requested that a procedural hearing be held or a Panel considers that such a hearing is necessary in the particular circumstances, the above matters will be considered by a Panel at a meeting based on the written representations made by the parties in compliance with case management directions set for this purpose.
The Panel noted that the Teacher had not requested a procedural hearing in the submissions made. Further, the Panel considered that a procedural hearing was not necessary, and therefore proceeded to consider the matter on the papers.
The Panel had regard to the relevant Rules and the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement, which sets out the default position that fitness to teach hearings are held in public, influenced by Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the principle of open justice. The power of the Panel to grant anonymity is contained in Rule 1.7.3, which provides that:
‘A Panel may at any stage of proceedings on its own initiative or on an application to it, make an order with a view to preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of the proceedings. A panel may do this insofar as it considers necessary where it is satisfied (having given the relevant parties an opportunity to make representations and in compliance with all the relevant convention rights) that it is in the interests of justice to do so and in the particular circumstances of the case outweigh the interests of the teacher and the public in the hearing being held in public. Any such decision (and the reasons for it) will be announced in public or be made publicly available.
Such orders may include (but will not be limited to) –
(a) an order that a hearing be conducted in whole or in part in private;
(b) 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 use of anonymisation or otherwise) and whether before, during or after these proceedings; and
(c) An order for measures seeking to prevent witnesses at a public hearing being identifiable by members of the public.
Unless a Panel orders otherwise, any vulnerable witness referred to in proceedings will be subject to the measures specified at (b) and (c) above.’
The Panel had careful regard to the Teacher’s application and the papers relating to it. The Panel considered the relevant Practice Statements; the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement and the Health Matters and Medical Evidence Practice Statement.
When referring to the Privacy and Anonymity Practice Statement, the Panel considered that anonymity being conferred should only be made by exception. The Panel balanced the open justice principle with the right of the Teacher to privacy in respect of their health and family life. The Panel had before it cogent, reliable and detailed information about the Teacher’s circumstances, including [redacted] conditions, from statements from the Teacher and their social worker, as well as a report from a [redacted] dated 9 December 2022. The report from the [redacted] confirms that an open hearing is likely to have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the Teacher, even to the point of [redacted]. The Panel considered that the GTC Scotland proceedings are having a significant impact on the Teacher and there is a risk of long-term damage to their health. This is further supported by the Teacher’s social worker who also expresses concerns as to the risk of possible retribution on the Teacher and their family. If the Teacher were identified, this is likely to place the Teacher and their family at significant risk of harm.
The Panel took account of the fact that the allegations do not relate to the Teacher’s professional role.
The Panel considered the Health Matters and Medical Evidence Practice Statement which sets out the criteria to be met in relation to medical evidence. It states:
‘Medical evidence should take the form of an appropriately detailed letter from a medical practitioner setting out the following:
- A specific diagnosis;
- The severity of the condition(s);
- A specific explanation of how the condition(s) impacts upon attendance at the hearing and/or engagement with the hearing process (as well as any recommendations as to reasonable adjustments that could or should be made to facilitate attendance/engagement);
- What the treatment is; and
- What the prognosis is. ‘
The Panel considered that the medical report of the [redacted], dated 9 December 2022, met the criteria set out in the Health Matters and Medical Evidence Practice Statement.
The Panel concluded in light of the strength and quality of the information before it that it was fair, appropriate and in the interests of justice, to grant the application for anonymity.
The Panel therefore directed that the Teacher be fully anonymised and that their name and registration number are anonymised along with all other personal, family or geographical details including but not exhaustive of the name of any court, address and/or town or location pertaining to the allegations that could lead to ‘jigsaw identification’ of the Teacher or their family.