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(2) Where the affairs of a body corporate are managed by its members, subsection (1) applies in relation to the acts and defaults of a member in connection with his functions of management as it applies to a director of a body corporate.
(1) Proceedings for an offence alleged to have been committed under this Chapter by an unincorporated body are to be brought
in the name of that body (and not in that of any of its members) and, for the purposes of any such proceedings, any rules of court relating to the service of documents have effect as if that body were a corporation.
(3) If an unincorporated body is charged with an offence under this Chapter, section 33 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and Schedule 3 to the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (procedure on charge of an offence against a corporation) apply as they do in relation to a body corporate.
(4) Where an offence under this Chapter committed by an unincorporated body (other than a partnership) is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, any officer of the body or any member of its governing body, he as well as the body is guilty of the offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
(5) Where an offence under this Chapter committed by a partnership is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, a partner, he as well as the partnership is guilty of the offence and liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
Phil Hope: New clause 34 will allow the registration authority for independent schools to institute proceedings against any person or persons who commit any offence relating to independent schools, as set out in chapter 1 of part 10 of the Education Act 2002. The registration authority in England is the Secretary of State and the authority in Wales is the National Assembly for Wales.
Subsection (2) of the new clause also clarifies the existing powers for proceedings to be instituted. It allows the registration authority to institute proceedings and requires the authority to give consent before any other body institutes such proceedings. The clause also extends that authority to all offences in chapter 1. Such authority had previously been directed at those operating an unregisteredillegalschool. The measure will enable the registration authority to prosecute after the provision comes into force for offences committed before or after the commencement of the provision.
The new clause also extends the definition of who may be prosecuted to include bodies corporate and specified members of that body. It is increasingly common for independent schools to be owned and managed by companies, rather than sole proprietors. The existing provision allows for the prosecution of a person, but the new clause reflects more accurately current practice in the independent sector. The new clause further extends the definition to cover unincorporated bodies and partnerships and their members for the same reasons.
Subsection (3) of the new clause is a consequential amendment in view of the extension of the authority of the Secretary of State and the Assembly to all offences in chapter 1. Subsection (4) of the new clause provides that the provisions extending the definition of those who may be prosecuted will not have effect in relation to offences committed before the commencement date. Government amendments Nos. 69 and 79 are consequential amendments.
(3) The governing body of a maintained school shall in particular ensure that policies and procedures in relation to allegations against teachers or members of staff provide for disciplinary action to be taken against any teacher or member of staff who discloses any information to which subsection (2) applies without the express authorisation of the governing body.
Mr. Willetts: New clause 1 would place a duty on individuals investigating allegations against teachers to ensure the confidentiality of information that might identify the alleged offender until the allegation had been proven. It would place a duty on the governing body of a maintained school to ensure that its school policy provided for disciplinary action to be taken against any member of staff who disclosed such information.
We were concerned to ensure that the new clause was within the terms of the Bill, which was why we drafted it in such a way. We realise that it might have been simpler to provide for full anonymity that was backed up by a criminal penalty, but as that would be a criminal justice measure, we understand that it would be outside the scope of an education Bill. We have tabled the new clause in such a form because it is the best way of which we are aware of trying to provide greater protection for teachers within the scope of the Bill.
I assure the Government that we would not die in the last ditch about the exact form that the provision should take. The Government have access to parliamentary draftsmen, and there might be other mechanisms that the Minister can propose that would achieve the same objective of providing much more protection for teachers who face such allegations than they have at the moment. We hope to hear tonight from the Government a clear commitment in principle to legislate in some way, ideally through the Bill, to tackle a source of deep distress and concern to many teachers. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be familiar with worrying cases in which teachers are accused, often without any foundation whatsoever, of assaulting a child in some way. The allegations might not even lead to charges, but the name of the teacher can be dragged through the media because it has leaked out.
That can severely damage their professional reputation and cause them enormous personal distress. Sadly, in many cases it can ruin their lives. They simply do not have the protection that the Opposition believe they deserve. The Minister will be familiar with the examples assembled by SecEd as part of an impressive campaign, to which I pay tribute. I shall cite two of those examples. In 2001, a 47-year-old teacher was arrested and charged with actual bodily harm and common assault after she spilled fruit juice on a pupils head. The case was dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions, but she was still mentioned in the national and local press. She was harassed and threatened by neighbours, and could not go shopping without exciting public recognition. She finally took long-term sick leave as a result of anxiety and depression. That is an example of the problems caused when such allegations surface in the press.
In a later case, a teacher was accused of physically assaulting a pupil and, as a result, a front-page story appeared in the local newspaper. After interviewing the teacher, the police decided not to take action, but the newspaper reported inaccurately that the Crown Prosecution Service wished to press charges. Eventually, it published a small apology. Colleagues on both sides of the House will be aware of other incidents that cause teachers great concern. There are arguments about whether the protection of anonymity should extend only to the point at which charges are brought or to the point at which someone is found guilty of an offence. We are happy to listen to the opinions of Members on both sides of the House, but we should all accept that teachers have been lost to the teaching profession following the broadcast of unfounded allegations in the media that ruin their lives.
Respect for authority has undoubtedly diminished and this is visible in all areas of society, not just in schools...I was walking through my local village recently and overheard a youth of about 15 saying to his mother that a friend of his had one ambition and that was to get a teacher sacked before he left school.
Such allegations are used deliberately by a tiny minority of pupils to undermine teachers authority and demoralise them. Sadly, they sometimes succeed, so hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to provide tougher protection for teachers in those circumstance.
I accept that there is enormous sensitivity about the treatment of sex offenders and that it is important to be as rigorous as possible when there is any such risk to children. However, the general secretary of the NASUWT has pressed for anonymity:
This is not an attempt to protect those who abuse children. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated...Providing anonymity does not hinder a proper investigation or protect abusers. It simply enables justice to be done in a civilised and fair manner, strengthening the principle of innocent until proven guilty and avoiding trial by media.
The statistics reveal the scale of the problem. Of 1,782 accusations of abuse against members of the NASUWT in 2005, only 69 resulted in conviction. Many members of teaching unions report that they have been the victim of exaggerated, false or malicious allegations of child abuse, but in many instances there was no case to answer.
The Government have already made some progress in tackling the problem. The guidance safeguarding children in education and dealing with allegations of abuse against teachers and other staff is a welcome step forward. We strongly support the guidance, which contains a paragraph on confidentiality with which we agree. It states:
Every effort should be made to maintain confidentiality and guard against unwanted publicity while an allegation is being investigation/considered.
the police will not normally provide any information to the Press or media that might identify an individual who is under investigation.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): What happens if the loss of confidentiality occurs through the arrest process? It is not unknown for the police to have spoken to somebody. Is action possible against the police for failing to protect the confidentiality of that individual?
Mr. Willetts: That would not be possible within the framework of the new clause that we propose, as it relates only to educational establishments. There is an argument for wider protection for teachers, which would require provisions under criminal justice legislation that go beyond the Bill. If it could be shown that there had been a leak from the police contrary to the Governments existing guidance, I hope that that would be an offence and that people would have some redress. Unfortunately, it has not been possible for us, with our advisers, to put that in a new clause that would be in order. We have not been able to crack that within the framework of the Bill. Perhaps the Minister has better advice.
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