Legal Representation and School Disciplinary Proceedings

R (on the application of G) (Respondent) v The Governors of X School (Appellant) [2011] UKSC 30

The above case concerned a chap, G, who worked as a music assistant in a school. It was alleged he had formed an inappropriate relationship with a 15 year old male student, though the police investigated the matter and no charges were brought.

The School instigated disciplinary proceedings and G was informed that he could bring either a trade union rep or school colleague to support him during the proceedings. G informed the school he wanted to bring his solicitor and claimed Article 6 rights, broadly his right to a fair trial. This request was refused. G turned up to the meeting with his dad but decided not to ask questions, claiming the process was flawed.

The School found that G had formed an inappropriate relationship with the boy in question and he was dismissed for gross misconduct. It is worth pointing out that, in such cases, the standard of proof is not as high as many people think. Significantly, the School referred the matter to the Secretary of State (a role now performed by the Independent Safeguarding Authority) to determine if G should be put on the ‘barred list’ (formerly ‘list 99’).

There is no doubt this was all very significant as far as G’s career is concerned. So, given this, should his lawyer have been allowed to attend the disciplinary meeting at the school? Somewhat surprisingly, the Supreme Court said no as they argued that the school disciplinary meeting related to G’s status as an employee whist proceedings relating to G being placed on the barred list were determinative of G being able to practice his profession. An unhelpful distinction? Lord Kerr thought one should look at the whole picture, but he was in the minority.

So what is the significance, if any, of the above? Well it seems that a teacher, or indeed any other professional, who is faced with disciplinary proceeding at work needs prepare their response well. That said, they can’t rely on instructing lawyers to represent them, even though the outcome of any such proceedings may have a potentially devastating impact on their career.