Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Lid Fell Off ...

“Next morning a crowd gathered on the common, hypnotized by the unscrewing of the cylinder. Two feet of shining screw projected when suddenly the lid fell off ! Two luminous disc-like eyes appeared above the rim. A huge rounded bulk, larger than a bear, rose up slowly glistening like wet leather. Its lipless mouth quivered and slavered and snake like tentacles writhed as the body heaved and pulsated. A few younger men crept closer to the pit. A tall funnel rose then an invisible ray of heat leaped from man to man and there was a bright glare as each was instantly turned into fire.”H. G. Wells (1866 – 1946)

I outlined my intent in “Pandora’s Box”. For two long miserable years, I have remained silent - my story untold. I have written a book to help others; it makes few references to the details of my case.

Today, I start with my story. There is much to relate and I remain hesitant of the format and presentation. There is no doubt that this entry will be subject to change as my story unfolds. The only certainty is that I have opened Pandora’s Box ...

The lid has fallen off !

I start with the audio recording of my police arrest interview of 31 October 2007. All my life, I have been an honest, caring and loving person and to be arrested was the most debasing, sordid and terrifying experience imaginable. Throughout my arrest, I felt physically sick, scared and so alone.

My mind raced and struggled to comprehend my nightmare as the details of the allegation unfolded. The pressures and stresses that you experience during a police interview are such that it is not possible to respond with anything other than the truth.

I remain scarred by the memory of this episode and there is no way that I can consider listening to the interview recording that I have now released - even today, the thought of it makes me ill.

Refer : Arresting Times

As my story unfolds, it will become clear that truth had never been on the agenda. I was guilty from the instant of my suspension. From that moment onwards, I had been judged and sentenced by the school with the full support and sanction of Lancashire County Council. Their focus was clear all along – sack me and be damned !

The second time that I was subject to intense interview by a professional trained investigator was during my polygraph examination. Unlike my arrest interview, it was my decision to undergo such an examination but nevertheless it was an ordeal. My decision was based on sound judgement. Whilst polygraph examinations are not yet acceptable as evidence in a criminal court of law, they are admissible in some civil cases. Polygraph examinations are accepted by government and are now an integral component of the Offender Management Act 2007.

Even though I passed my examination, by one of the UK’s most reputable bodies, it was Lancashire County Council that destroyed all credibility of, not the polygraph test, but the character of the examiner, Don Cargill of NADAC.

The following video illustrates Don Cargill and his work in connection with the Michael Shields case from the BBC television series Inside‑Out :

Courtesy BBC Manchester - Inside Out

During my appeal hearing, Don Cargill availed himself to be questioned by conference telephone.

The only people who spoke with Don Cargill (DC) were the two Lancashire County Council HR representatives – one supporting the governors (HR1) and the other (HR2) supporting the head teacher.

The following dialogue was taken from my appeal hearing transcripts :

HR1 started the questioning session :
HR1 : Can you confirm that you carried out the test with JW ?
DC : Yes.
HR1 : On what date ?
DC : About 3 months ago.
HR1 : How much was she charged ?
DC : That is confidential.
HR1 : Is it true that you practiced the questions ?
DC : No. I sat down and listened to her version of events. I don’t care if she lies or not. I am a professional. I attached monitors to JW body. Sometimes we have to ask further questions. The main relevant questions are to do with did she or did she not touch the child. I have to take verbal testimony of people taking the test. JW slapped the table and her ring caught the table. In no way at all did she touch that child in my opinion. These tests are over 98% accurate.
HR1 : The assessment isn’t purely based on an actual test – there are pre and post questions ?
DC : Yes.
HR1: What’s the scope to manipulate ?
DC : (Gave a range of examples e.g. drawing pins in shoes.) We cannot alter our own nervous system unless we are lying and this would show up on the chart. It is a scientific control. We also use subtle interrogation skills.
HR1 : Would prescription medication affect the accuracy ?
DC : Only if completely drunk or taken marijuana or cough medicine or cocaine or recently started beta blockers. So as long as no heavy cold or a cough.
HR1 : Can you give a 100% assurance that JW was not taking any prescription drugs that may affect the outcome ?
DC : Only if she was on heroin or cocaine replacement drugs.
HR1 : Can you confirm that the same person who took test is the same person in the hearing ?
DC : I don’t know because I can’t see them !

HR2 then asked questions :
HR2 : Just to confirm - you are the owner of largest privately owned Polygraph Clinic ?
DC : Yes.
HR2 : You make your living through them so it is in your interests to say they are 98% accurate.
DC : Not in my interests at all. All polygraph tests are deemed to be accurate not just mine. That does not mean I get 2% wrong.
HR2 : Is it true that you are available for TV / Radio ?
DC : Yes.
HR2 : So you work in the entertainment business ?
DC : I take my profession very seriously.
HR2 : On some information it describes you as being the only glamorous couple in the industry. This is strange if you are a serious business.
DC : They are accurate.

No other member of the governing body or anyone else asked questions.

The above transcripts were taken by HR1. They are reasonably accurate but some comments were omitted. At the conclusion of HR2s questioning, he concluded with a statement to Don Cargill : “You’re nothing more than a media showman !”

The intent of the questions posed and statements made during the above session is evident - to discredit Don Cargill and therefore to cast doubt on the validity of my test. They could not ask searching questions that would educate those present for to do so would have been to allow doubt of my guilt to gain substance.

In his summary, the head teacher said “She had convinced herself of her own reality and that is how she passed the polygraph examination.” (This conclusion was not reached through dialogue with Don Cargill who later commented to me that such an observation would not be possible.)

Later, I received my “Outcome of Hearing Letter” from Lancashire County Council. It contained the following section on their opinion of my polygraph test :

The Committee considered carefully what weight should be placed on the polygraph report you submitted. They took into account a number of factors including the following :
  • The report dated 13th April 2008 was conducted by a qualified person who runs a commercial enterprise including clients in the entertainment business. He was paid by you to conduct the test.
    This statement and inference is outrageous.

  • The report itself is an expression of opinion that there was “no deception indicated”. This opinion is based on the test, examination and interviews including ‘numerous rehearsals of the questions to be asked of her before the actual test itself’.
    This statement indicates that they did not understand the methodology of polygraph examinations.

  • The test provides an indicator of ‘no deception’ rather than categorical proof that the subject of the test is telling the truth.
    This statement indicates that they did not understand the methodology of polygraph examinations. There are only two outcomes from a polygraph examination : NO DECEPTION INDICATED meaning the examinee answered the relevant questions truthfully, DECEPTION INDICATED meaning the examinee did not tell the truth to the relevant test questions or sometimes the opinion is inconclusive when the examiner is unable to determine truth or deception from the examinee’s polygraph charts due to abnormal and / or inconsistent physiological reactions.

  • Mr Cargill was unable to confirm your identify as the person who took the test.
    I had submitted my report to Lancashire County Council at the end of April 2008 - they had almost two months to assure themselves of its validity ! They also had the opportunity to address this point with Don Cargill during the telephone conversation at my appeal hearing.
Therefore, the Committee concluded the polygraph test does not negate or override witness testimony whether that witness testimony supports your account of events or contradicts it.

I know that I have not been fairly treated by this process - far from it ! There was never a moment when my school or Lancashire County Council demonstrated fair play or reasonable behaviour. From the time of my suspension, they broke the rules and left me deserted and alone - no support, no contact and no compassion.

Nowhere was there any doubt that I was guilty. The head teacher was given free reign by Lancashire County Council to prove me guilty - almost at any cost !

At my appeal hearing, the head teacher said “I was told to find out what the witnesses said and write down what I believed. My advice from personnel was to speak to witnesses and present a report based on what I found and what I believed had happened on 26th September. Hence when I did speak to people I believed that ‘she’ had smacked ‘the girl’ on the hand and my report reflected that.”

On three occasions during my appeal hearing, the head teacher said :

“I knew what I believed and proved it !”

When asked why statements were omitted from his report, he said “We felt that to use the statement would be a distraction.” adding “The statement only served to ‘cloud the issue’.”

It was of little wonder that at my appeal hearing, the head teacher was supported not only by a Lancashire County Council HR manager, he also required the presence of his NAHT union representive. The fact was that if my appeal succeeded then the ensuing aftermath would impact many of those involved.

This was a battleground where right and wrong had no place - they had to find me guilty at any price !

Lancashire County Council knew that there had been significant failings and they took a strategic decision to reinstate me, knowing that I was too ill to return to school (for which I was sacked again in May 2009) and that reinstatement closed the door to progressing my case through an employment tribunal.

Realize that, I was found, by the Disciplinary and Appeal Committees, to have violently assaulted a child, to such an extent that the little girl continues to suffer post-traumatic shock. The assault was so violent that it took the witness, a special needs assistant, 20 hours to recover sufficiently before she felt able to report it. It was so violent that the little girl showed no initial reaction at the moment of the assault and that no other child in the vicinity reacted !

How could they justify their decision to reinstate me ? This was gross misconduct and at the severest level !

Recently, I conveyed my feelings and concerns to Lancashire County Council and received this response :

“I do not feel that it is in the best interests of all of the parties involved for this to be re-examined.”
Helen Denton, Executive Director for Children and Young People

I question whose best interests and which parties is she concerned about ? It certainly is not mine ! This is my life that they have stolen !

I conclude with the facts that Chair of Governors said that, in November 2007, he tried to stop the case progressing to that of a Disciplinary Hearing. He could see no benefit to the school in pursuing such action and the reports from the CPA and the police had concluded that the incident should be closed. He was overruled by the head teacher.

In January 2008, the Chair of Governors resigned coincident with the publication of the head teacher’s report. He had issues about the lack of impartiality of the report and raised concerns about the lack of experience and training of the Disciplinary Committee.

Immediately following my appeal hearing, another governor, a parent and teaching assistant at the school, was so appalled by the outcome of the hearing that she not only resigned, she removed her children from the school !

Later, I will look at the ‘impartiality’ of the investigative process undertaken by my head teacher in my next blog.

I make the offer to undergo another polygraph examination to prove, once again, my innocence with the condition that the head teacher, HR manager and key witness also take the test and that the results be made public.