Monday, 13 July 2009

The Box Is Open

Bilbo:A box without hinges, key, or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.

Answer:An egg

The Hobbit - J.R.R.Tolkien (1892-1973)

The allegation of assault was dismissed by the police on 19 Nov 2007. They said that cases, like this one, were nothing but a waste of valuable police resource and I understand that they issued a complaint to this effect.

Regrettably, the police investigation is focused on establishing sufficient evidence to meet the submission requirements of the Crown Prosecution Service and it not their function, in the absence of evidence, to determine or judge the likelihood that a criminal act had taken place. However, the police did consider that I had been victimized and that their investigation had supported this opinion.

So, on 20 Nov 2007, the school embarked on their Disciplinary process – which started with an investigative phase, undertaken by my head teacher, supported and advised by Lancashire County Council’s HR department. (They did have the option not to progress with any further action.)

I was invited to an ‘interview’ with my head teacher on 13 Dec 2007 where I was expected to answer his questions. My responses would be recorded and at the end of the session, I would sign the so prepared document which would become my statement.

There was no way that I could face being subjected to such interrogation; at that time I was very ill through stress and my mental state was one of utter confusion, in part through my illness, and part through side effects of my medication, Sertraline and Diazepam.

On the day of my suspension, 27 Sep 2007, I had written everything that I could recollect (bearing in mind that I did not know the details of the allegation until my arrest on 31 Oct 2007). This record of events was my statement and I never changed any details after that date. It was lodged with my solicitor and was accepted by the police.

Therefore, rather than subject myself to an intimidating and threatening interrogation by my head teacher, I submitted my statement and agreed that they could ask me anything else at a later date if there were any other points that required clarification. (This statement submission was at the advice of a Lancashire County Council HR manager.) I never heard from anyone until a letter arrived in mid-March 2008 to inform me of the date and venue of my Disciplinary Hearing.

The investigative process and guidelines feature in some detail in my blog entry ‘CSI Miami’ and a somewhat cynical but accurate description of what actually took place features in my entry ‘CSI Springfield’.

Lancashire County Council’s guidelines state (Refer : Annex 1) :

“An investigation is a fact-finding exercise with the aim of obtaining, as far as possible, a fair and balanced picture through a written record. The aim is not to prove or disprove an allegation.”

ACAS guidelines are much more detailed and stringent but the underlying requirements are those of impartiality, fairness and that no conclusion should be made by the report.

This was the submission made by my head teacher following his investigative process (after 2 months) :

Adverse Report Mrs Jane Watts - by head teacher

His report concludes :

1.5.2 : Mrs Watts continues to deny smacking E.... T......
1.5.3 : I believe Mrs Watts is guilty of gross misconduct for smacking E.... T..... and my concern is compounded by her refusal to admit the offence.

My statement is at the back of this report. Originally, when submitted, it had been signed, dated and witnessed but no one could explain why the signatures and dates had been removed. I suppose that it was that my statement was then like all the others for they were not signed or dated either.

The head teacher deliberately omitted witness statements that did not support his findings. He explained his rationale for doing so :

“We felt that to use the statement would be a distraction.”
“The statement only served to ‘cloud the issue’.”

The terrifying fact was that this was accepted by the hearing committee without hesitation or question !

He also maximized on the opportunity to discredit my honesty by adding conversation that never took place at my suspension. He denied me my constitutional right to be accompanied. At that time, he told me that he could not provide details of the allegation and said that I would be informed at a later date - the later date being when I was arrested !

Yet, in his report, he says :

1.4.5 : I explained to Mrs Watts that I was suspending her because there had been an allegation that she had smacked E.... T..... on the hand. Mrs Watts said she had been cross with E.... during the day but had not smacked her. Mrs Watts asked if I believed her. I explained that the suspension was made without prejudice and that it would continue whilst an investigation took place and that it was likely that there would be a strategy meeting called by social services.

I went through weeks of hell - I did not know what was happening, no one contacted me, and worst of all I did not know any detail of the allegation. The only information that I had came from articles in local newspapers; the featured information had been provided by Lancashire County Council.

If the head teacher had informed me in such detail, why then would this conversation between myself and a Lancashire County Council HR Manager have taken place :

I will refer to other details of this conversation in a later blog - suffice to say, this was the one and only time that Lancashire County Council made any attempt to ‘keep me informed’.

Immediately following the release of the head teacher’s report, the chair of governors resigned. He had expressed his concerns about the poor quality and obvious bias of his report to the head teacher.

He also had insisted that there should be changes made to the members of the Disciplinary Committee as they had limited training and no experience; but to no avail.

So, at my Disciplinary Hearing, I was judged and sacked by a florist and his delivery ‘boy’; aided and abetted by Lancashire County Council representatives.

The chair of the Disciplinary Committee and the now chair of governors is a florist whose shop routinely supplies the school with all it floral decorations, bouquets, etc.

My next blog will focus on why my head teacher should not have been permitted to undertake the investigative process. I had suffered from several years of bullying and our working relationship and his behaviour was such that he could never have been objective. Lancashire County Council knew that this problem existed but denied it at my appeal hearing ! ... and more ...