News & Views

Teacher not allowed legal representation at school disciplinary hearing

BY Ian Watson
Employment law
BG Purple

In a case that we have previously reported in LAWmail, the Supreme Court has, by a majority, overturned the Court of Appeal's decision and decided that a teaching assistant accused of sexual misconduct with a minor could not rely on the right to a fair trial in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights to insist on legal representation at the school's disciplinary hearing.

The court said that the outcome of the disciplinary procedure would not have such a 'substantial influence or effect' on the subsequent statutory barring procedure that the right to legal representation should apply to the disciplinary proceedings.

G, a teaching assistant at X school, was suspended after allegations that he had formed an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old boy. At a subsequent disciplinary hearing G was not permitted representation by a solicitor. The disciplinary panel found that G had intended to cultivate a sexual relationship with M, an abuse of trust amounting to gross misconduct for which he should be summarily dismissed. As G's behaviour demonstrated unsuitability to work with children, the fact of his dismissal was notified to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) so that it could determine whether to place G on a 'barred list' preventing him from working with children.

When G's request for legal representation at an appeal against the school's decision was also refused, he sought judicial review of the decision to prohibit legal representation on the basis that it breached his right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The High Court found in G's favour and ordered the allegations of misconduct to be heard by a differently constituted disciplinary committee at which G should be given the right to legal representation. The school's appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

But, overturning the Court of Appeal's decision, the majority of the Supreme Court did not consider that there was a sufficient connection between the disciplinary proceedings and the ISA proceedings for Article 6 to apply at the earlier stage.

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