GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

General Teaching Council for Scotland Fitness to Teach Panel Outcome

           

Procedural Hearing Outcome

26 August 2019

 Teacher Tracie McGee
 Registration Number 185119
 Registration category Applicant - Primary
 Panel David Hughes Hallet (Convener), Kathleen McCormick and Peter Hempsey
 Legal Assessor Robert Frazer
 Servicing Officer Louise Jackson
 Presenting Officer Catriona Watt, Anderson Strathern
 Teacher's representative Darren Wapplington (NASUWT)

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; and
  • 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 Hearing was arranged to consider the following:

  • an application by the Applicant to cancel the case.

Evidence

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:

  • Procedural hearing application to cancel by the Applicant
  • Submissions by the Presenting Officer
  • Panel Meeting papers
  • Panel Consideration Outcome dated 22 August 2018
  • Notice of Procedural Hearing dated 19 August 2019

Preliminary matters

At the outset of the hearing, the Applicant’s Representative, on behalf of the Applicant, made an application for late papers to be received. These comprised emails between Applicant’s Representative and GTCS regarding the Applicant’s registration and induction training with the local authority. The Applicant’s Representative submitted that these were relevant to the case as they showed that an offer of induction training had been made to the Applicant, which she accepted in good faith, which the Panel should be aware of. The emails were mainly dated 19, 23 and 26 August and were therefore unable to be lodged at an earlier stage. The Presenting Officer did not object to the lateness of the documents but did object to any inference to be drawn from the contents which she explained would be expanded upon in her submissions.

Having taken legal advice and having regard to Rule 2.3.2 the Panel agreed it was fair and relevant to allow the papers to be received late and so granted the application.

Decision

The Panel gave careful consideration to parties’ submissions and the legal advice provided.

With reference to his written submissions, the Applicant’s Representative made an application under Rule 2.5.1 to cancel proceedings on the basis that the vast majority of the original allegations against the Applicant were more than 5 years old and had been determined by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) in its decision of 8 September 2016. He submitted, with reference to Rule 2.1.1, that the alleged relevant conduct occurred more than 5 years ago and it was not in the public interest to proceed further with this case. He submitted that this constituted punishing the Applicant for issues that had already been dealt with. In doing so, the current investigation and process had resulted in the Applicant being unable to take up her position for induction training with the local authority which had been offered to her in May 2019. The Applicant had attended on the first day of her induction period and was told at that point there was no longer a placement for her. As a result, she is currently unemployed. He submitted that, in all the circumstances, it was unfair to procced further with this case and accordingly it should be cancelled.

In response, the Presenting Officer adopted her written submissions and opposed the application. She firstly submitted that it was not the date of the original allegations which were important but rather the date of the decision of the SSSC which was within the prescriptive period specified in Rule 2.1.1. She further submitted that it was, in any event, in the public interest that those matters which had been found proved by the SSSC panel were the subject of further inquiry by GTCS when considering the Applicant’s fitness to teach. She submitted that it was not the intention of GTCS to reopen the original allegations but rather to found on the actual decision by way of a certificate from the SSSC to that effect, in accordance with Rule 1.7.20. She submitted that the nature of the proven allegations, involving vulnerable persons and dishonesty, were sufficiently serious to justify a finding that it was in the public interest for the matter to proceed to a Full Hearing, all in accordance with Rule 2.1.1(b).

The Presenting Officer also submitted that it was not the case that the Applicant was being punished by GTCS by the decision to proceed with this case against her. The evidential rule against double jeopardy did not apply in regulatory proceedings and was specifically dealt with in terms of Rule 1.7.20. This made clear that a finding by another regulatory body was something that could be pursued by GTCS in considering an issue of fitness to teach against a teacher/applicant.

The Panel was grateful to parties for their written submissions. It had regard to the overall objectives of the GTCS which included protection of the public and young persons together with the need to uphold the public interest, which included maintenance of public confidence in the profession and GTCS as the regulator. It noted with regard to Rule 2.5.1 that cancellation of GTCS proceedings where a decision has been made to refer a case to a fitness to teach panel should only be made in exceptional circumstances and where it would not be in the public interest to proceed.

The Panel next considered Rule 2.1.1. It noted that a referral must be considered by GTCS and passed for investigation under Rule 2.2 unless it falls within a number of specified categories. This includes Rule 2.1.1(b) which states it will not be referred if:

‘it relates to events that occurred 5 years or more before the date of the most recent event(s) referred to and it is not in the public interest for it to be referred for investigation’

The Panel noted that the decision of the SSSC was dated September 2016 and it was the intention of GTCS to rely on those findings by way of certification to be provided by SSSC, in accordance with Rule 1.7.20. The Panel considered that, notwithstanding the dates of the actual allegations, the relevant date to consider was that when the SSSC made its decision which was within the 5 year period as specified in Rule 2.1.1(b).

In addition, the Panel noted the nature of the original allegations which were numerous and included failures to care properly for vulnerable persons and dishonesty, which also included false record keeping. The Panel considered these allegations, which were found proved by the SSSC panel were serious and fell within the category of conduct which constituted ‘Relevant Conduct’ in accordance with the GTCS Threshold Policy.

The Panel also considered that the allegations were sufficiently serious in themselves to fall within the exception to Rule 2.1.1(b) in that it was in the public interest to proceed with this case to a Full Hearing even if they fell outwith 5 year prescriptive period.

The Panel further accepted the submissions of the Presenting Officer and the Legal Assessor’s advice that the evidential rule of double jeopardy did not apply in regulatory proceedings such as these and was specifically covered in Rule 1.7.20 which states:

‘A certificate as to a determination about a Teacher made by a body responsible under any enactment or otherwise for the regulation of any profession signed by an officer authorised by the body to sign such certificates will be admissible as prima facie evidence of the facts referred to in the determination’

The Panel considered a certified decision of the SSSC was therefore sufficient to bring a prima facie case against the Applicant. In these circumstances it was appropriate for the matter to proceed to a Full Hearing in order that an assessment of the Applicant’s fitness to teach could be made.

For all the above reasons the application to cancel was refused.

Finally, the Panel considered it unhelpful if the allegations were to proceed as currently framed. It considered that as the case was proceeding on the basis of the SSSC decision it would be preferable if consideration was given to submitting the whole SSSC decision to the Full Hearing Panel without abbreviation or amendment.  By doing so, the Panel considered that it would be easier for the Full Hearing panel to understand the nature of the referral and it would also be fairer to the Applicant in her preparation for the hearing.