A former primary school headteacher who was cleared of sexually abusing seven children could receive compensation after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly sacked.
He was sacked before the trial? That's unusual, isn't it?
He faced six charges of sexual offences against children at the unnamed school in Essex in June 2018, but due to the way the youngsters were interviewed the case was dropped when it reached the crown court. Despite being acquitted when the CPS offered no further evidence in May 2019, the teacher was still dismissed by Essex County Council.
Ah! There was no trial.
A tribunal judge criticised Essex Police's handling of the case as well as Essex County Council that took over the disciplinary proceedings from the school governors over fears they would not be impartial. But the authority's executive director for corporate and customer services, Margaret Lee, was slammed for 'shooting from the hip' and not reading the teacher's legal statement from his QC.
Another council investigator who carried out the disciplinary probe did not look at any of the adult witnesses' statements and ignored that many of the children making the allegations were friends, according to the tribunal.
So...if there was no offence, why was he sacked? In fact, why was he even charged?
Judge Samantha Leigh (Ed: and if you can't win over 'soft touch Samantha'..!) at Basildon Crown Court said had the full extent of the initial interviews with the children been known the teacher would probably not have been charged with any criminal offences.
Employment Judge John Crosfill in his ruling said, 'there was evidence from children that suggested some inappropriate behaviour'. But he added: 'Against that there was considerable evidence that went the other way.
'What was required was a reasonable and careful evaluation of that evidence. I regret to say that the combined efforts of Norma Howes, Jo Reed, Clare Kershaw and Margaret Lee fell far short of that.'
Norma Howes, a child protection expert, Jo Reed, an external HR advisor, Clare Kershaw, director of education at Essex County Council and Margaret Lee, carried out the authority's probe.
And let's hope that any compensation due to the wronged man comes directly out of their pockets, and not that of the poor long-suffering Essex taxpayer...
Essex County Council said it would take legal advice about the judge's ruling.
Dig deep, Essex ratepayers, there's more money to shell out!