West Law Report

DAVIES v GENERAL TEACHING COUNCIL FOR WALES

Posted in Consideration of relevant factors, Westlaw Reports by mrkooenglish on June 18, 2008

Last Updated: 7:17PM BST 11/06/2008
Queen’s Bench Division (Admin) Blair J May 22, 2008
Dangerous driving – Disciplinary procedures – Head teacher’s removal from register of teachers following conviction for dangerous driving – Consideration of relevant factors – Sch. 2 para. 8 Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998

FACTS

The appellant (D) appealed against a decision of a committee of the respondent council to remove his name from the register of teachers. Whilst working as a head teacher at a school, D had been convicted of dangerous driving and sentenced to imprisonment. The governing body of the school decided to keep D’s job open for him, and after his release on licence he returned to his post. In due course the council instituted its own disciplinary proceedings against D that culminated in the committee hearing. The committee first held that dangerous driving was a “relevant offence” within the meaning of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 Sch. 2 para. 8. It then held that D’s conduct clearly damaged the reputation of the teaching profession and public confidence in it and made it fundamentally incompatible for him to continue to be a registered teacher. The committee imposed a prohibition order that prevented D from applying for a period of two years for reinstatement, which resulted in the removal of his name from the register. D submitted that (1) the committee reached its decision as to the harm done to the reputation of the teaching profession without having heard any evidence or submissions on that issue; (2) the decision making process in deciding the sanction to be imposed was flawed as the committee had failed to address various relevant matters, namely his lack of previous convictions, his driving history, the fact that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the fact that the offence did not occur during the performance of D’s duties, the positive character references he had received, and the fact that the governors held his job as head teacher open for him; (3) the committee’s decision to impose a prohibition order was so harsh as to be perverse and wrong in law.

ISSUE

Whether the committee had erred in its decision to remove D’s name from the register of teachers following his conviction for the offence of dangerous driving.

HELD (appeal allowed)

(1) It was obvious that the materiality of a conviction for the purposes of determining whether the offence constituted a relevant offence might be linked to the question of public confidence in the profession, but that was not necessarily the case. It would have been better if the committee had limited its decision at that stage of the proceedings to the issue of materiality. However, in the result, there was no real prejudice to D. The committee had a very experienced legal advisor, and he made it clear prior to the committee considering its order, that though it had already made a determination that there had been damage to the reputation of the profession, in deciding what order to make, it had to form some further view as to the degree to which that had happened.

(2) The committee was fully focused on the accident, and must have had in mind D’s lack of previous convictions, his driving history, and the fact that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even if they were not specifically mentioned. Also, there was clear reference in the committee’s decision to the fact that the offence did not occur during the performance of D’s duties. It was true that reference was made to character references and testimonials, but there was no reference to what that material demonstrated in terms of the level of support for D by those most directly affected by his role as head teacher, nor how such support was relevant to the conclusion that the committee ultimately came to as to the disciplinary order required in order to maintain public confidence in the teaching profession. Further, it was surprising that no reference at all was made to the fact that the school governors decided to hold open D’s job for him while he was imprisoned and that, prior to the committee hearing, D had successfully returned to his position as head teacher. The committee had at least to engage with the conclusion that had been reached by the governors. The failure to do so in any meaningful sense constituted a failure to take into account relevant factors, Fatnani v General Medical Council [2007] EWCA Civ 46, [2007] 1 WLR 1460 applied. (3) D’s contention that the committee’s decision to impose a prohibition order was so harsh as to be perverse and wrong in law was an invitation to conduct an exercise in re-sentencing of the kind that Fatnani made clear was inappropriate.

Dinah Rose QC and Victoria Windle (instructed by National Association of Head Teachers) for the appellant. Paul Dean (instructed by CMS Cameron McKenna) for the respondent.

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