Allegations Against School Staff - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Supplementary memorandum submitted by FACT (Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers)


  1.1  During the second session held on 17 June questions were posed about whether or not it was possible in some way to combine the various investigations in order to speed up the process and make it more efficient, and whether or not the accused could be legally represented at disciplinary hearings.


  2.1  It is important to understand that in most cases of alleged abuse (which can include even minor complaints of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse (including any unwanted touching) there will be three strands of investigation involving the police, social services (child protection) and the employer.

  2.2  The police have a duty of care to wider society to uphold the law, social services have duty of care to protect children, and the employer has a duty of care to its employees.

  2.3  Whilst there may be some sharing of information and mutual cooperation, each of these agencies is required to operate within a different statutory framework, and is accountable to different bodies.

  2.4  In practice what happens is that where it is suspected that a crime may have taken place the police investigation rightly takes priority. These investigations can take several weeks, indeed months to complete. At the same time the local authority social services department (or equivalent) has a statutory duty to make, or cause inquiries to be made, in any case where it is suspected a child (or children) may be at risk of significant harm (Children Act 1989, section 47).

  2.5  Once these investigations are complete the employer will want to carry out their own investigation and satisfy themselves as to whether or not the allegation made amounts to misconduct, whether the employee has breached any of the employer's policy and procedures, or behaved in such a way that has affected essential trust and confidence between employee and employer.

  2.6  In many (but not all) cases information gathered through a child protection investigation is untested, and developed without the accused being given an opportunity to defend their position. Difficulties arise when employers accept such information uncritically. There is for many accused staff, a tension between the child protection approach and the need for a just investigative procedure. Employers have a duty to assess each case objectively and according to the evidence.

  2.7  In our view there is very little scope for combining investigations. With the exception of the police, there however remains a need to improve the quality of investigative practice and to ensure that justice considerations are given a much greater priority throughout the investigative process, including in child protection meetings.


  3.1  Most employers and most local authorities have their own distinct procedures for dealing with potential disciplinary issues. These procedures are generally informed by an ACAS statutory code of practice.

  3.2  Workers have a statutory right to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing (but not at an investigative hearing) by a companion where the disciplinary meeting could result in:

    (a) a formal warning being issued; or

    (b) the taking of some other disciplinary action; or

    (c) the confirmation of a warning or some other disciplinary action (appeal hearings).

  3.3  The chosen companion may be a fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union. A trade union representative who is not an employed official must have been certified by their union as being competent to accompany a worker.

  3.4  It is important to note that there is no statutory right to legal representation.

  3.5  In our experience it is exceptionally rare for any employer, including local authorities, to permit a solicitor to attend such meetings even in cases where the accused is not a member of a trade union and/or has not been able to obtain representation from among the workforce.

  3.6  In general terms we support the view that disciplinary proceedings should not become "legalised" but never the less feel that the ACAS Code of Practice could be strengthened by giving the accused the right to be represented by any person other than a legal representative. This would avoid situations where some individuals are left without any representation.

June 2009

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