Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Disciplinary Hearing

Judge Jeffreys - ‘The hanging judge’Judge George Jeffreys was born in 1648. Educated at Cambridge, he was appointed Solicitor General to the Duke of York and was knighted in 1677. He became recorder of London in 1678 and, by the time he was 33, he became Lord Chief Justice of England and a privy counsellor, later becoming Lord Chancellor. In 1683, he became Baron Jeffreys of Wem.

He became known as the ‘Hanging Judge’ because of the punishments he had given to the supporters of the Duke of Monmouth as a result of a failed rebellion.

In 1685, Judge Jeffreys came to Dorchester and lodged at 6, High West Street, Dorchester, (now the restaurant, Judge Jeffreys). The Bloody Assizes were held in the Oak Room (now a Tea Room) of the Antelope Hotel on the 5th day of September in that year. Judge Jeffreys is said to have a secret passage from his lodgings to the Oak Room.

In total seventy-four people were executed, one hundred and seventy five were transported and twenty nine were pardoned. Executions were carried out in towns and villages close to Dorchester.

In 1688 when James II fled the country, Judge Jeffreys was placed in the Tower of London, where he died, aged 44, as the result of kidney disease.

“Just take a seat !”The first electrocution in history was a disaster. The condemned man, axe murderer William Kemmler, lived through the first round of shocks. His executioners at Auburn prison in upstate New York had to do it all over again as the stink of Kemmler’s burning flesh filled the death house. “They would have done better with an axe.” Westinghouse commented.

I had not slept well; the usual nightmare of judges and court settings. My mind again was struggling to cope with what was going to be another ordeal. Exactly 6 months had now elapsed since the date of the allegation. There was little expectation of a fair hearing but I hoped that the skills of my barrister, who I had not yet met nor even spoken with, might produce a miracle.

The venue for the hearing was a local educational conference centre and was due to commence at 16:00. My barrister had arranged to meet me there at 14:30 to prepare.

My partner and I arrived at the same moment as my barrister. She was lovely and her demeanour of professionalism gave me a new found sense of courage to face what was now ahead.

We spent the next few hours discussing the details of my case and she outlined the format of her presentation of what I might expect.

My witnesses arrived at about 15:30 and she spent a while briefing them about their involvement and presentation.

The actual meeting started some 30 minutes late as my barrister had concerns about the members of the disciplinary committee but her request for a new committee was denied.

So, at about 16:30, we were led into the actual hearing to meet the various representatives of the LEA / governors :

After initial introductions and an explanation by the LEA HR representative about the format of the hearing, the head teacher read his report.

Prior to reading his conclusions, his witnesses appeared one at a time and they read their statements. The governors / LEA and my barrister then cross-examined each witness.

During this period there were several adjournments when the head teacher and his LEA HR support withdrew to discuss points that had been raised / queried by my barrister.

The head teacher then delivered his damning conclusions.

By the time the head teacher had finished his presentation and there were no more questions it was almost 20:00.

My barrister then introduced me and I was asked to relate my recollection of events. I was surprised to find that I spoke so freely and openly without interruption. It was much like my interview with the police – I told the truth and presented as full an account of what had happened as I was able.

I was then questioned by the chair of the disciplinary committee and the LEA representative. My head teacher attempted to make some derogatory remarks and asked some leading questions. I found that I was able to deal with the situation well and responded from a position of strength.

My witnesses then appeared before the assembly and made their presentations. As before, they were questioned at some length.

The head teacher then made his closing comments – essentially repeating that I was guilty of gross misconduct.

My barrister’s closing statement was such a contrast. It was well considered and pulled all of the known facts into a concise and cohesive argument.

By now it had gone 21:15 and the disciplinary committee said that the meeting would be adjourned until the following day. They said that they would deliberate the presentations and that a decision would be communicated to me via my solicitor.

I felt that I had given my best and I knew that I had been represented by the finest legal support possible.

So we walked out into the night, gave our barrister a big, heartfelt hug and our deepest thanks and went home with a sense of optimism.

The hearing had not been the nightmare ordeal that I had expected. No one lost their temper, although one of the head teacher’s witnesses did look very distressed even from the start.

Advice ? You must have a good legal representative – my confidence came from trust and faith in my barrister. It was very reassuring to have my partner with me ... he was not allowed to speak nor intervene on my behalf and he sat writing notes.

The rules for who may accompany you are well documented. Essentially you are allowed one representative – there was no problem expressed about my partner attending but I took the precaution of getting a letter from my doctor that stated my partner should be there on medical grounds due to my mental state.

Remember too that you can request an adjournment at any time.