Examination of Witnesses (Questions 36-39)|
17 JUNE 2009
Q36 Chairman: I think we are going
to break into the Guinness Book of Records for a select committee's
number of witnesses this morning, particularly as I believe that
six of you are now going to be joining me. I am sorry that it
is such a squeeze but it is, again, a delight to have such a well-qualified
group of witnesses in front of us. You will know the time constraints,
and as I told the last group of witnesses it will be quite rapid
fire. I shall look rather impatient if you go on for too long,
but you are a distinguished bunch so I shall probably be very
deferential. Clare Collins, Alan Meyrick, Nick Gargan, Kathryn
James, Fiona Hammans and Sir Steve Bullock, welcome indeedparticularly
to Fiona. I remember that you were very helpful when we looked
at education outside the classroom on a previous inquiry, so it
is nice to have you back. Sir Steve, you haven't been in front
of us before, have you?
Sir Steve Bullock: I have not.
Q37 Chairman: Welcome to you too,
and to Nick Gargan, who came in at short notice. That was very
good of you. We shall now get on; some of you have been sitting
at the back and heard the first session, didn't you? Who didn't?
Nick, you weren't there. Fiona? Goodsome of you have been
primed nicely. We usually give people a chance to say something
before we get started. I shall start with Nick Gargan, because
we have just had some pretty interesting evidence that we'll drill
down into in a moment. Let's ask you the general question: the
Police and Criminal Evidence Act is pretty clear on when you arrest
a person and when you don't, why does it seem necessary that a
teacher who is happy to comply and goes down to the police station
to be helpful, but still gets arrested? It is a significant moment
in their lives. If you read the Act it's not necessary, is it?
People don't have to be arrested.
Nick Gargan: I suppose it depends
how you define necessary. In Thames Valley police, we arrest about
60,000 people each year
and the idea of not arresting a significant proportion of them
would cause us some real control problems. If you have somebody
at the police station and they are wandering in and outwe
interview them, they provide us with some information and then
they disappear offwe may well want to check the facts.
Knowing where people are gives us a degree of control to deal
with issues that arise during their interview, evidence that they
present, evidence we might seek to obtain, and other people that
we might want to talk to. Arrest is an effective administrative
mechanism for keeping hold of people and having them where we
Q38 Chairman: But Nick, you know
and I know that all the evidence shows that of the allegations
of some form of misbehaviour in relation to teachers, only about
5% have ever been proven to have any substance. A teacher who
has no criminal record, has not been in trouble with the police
or the law at any time in their life, and is fully complying with
your investigation, is still arrested. Surely, good common sense
would suggest that teachers in that situation should normally
not be arrested.
Nick Gargan: Indeed. Good common
sense dictates that that happens most of the time. Most of the
time we don't arrest people. In a very small number of cases,
officers do arrest people. I think that arrests of teachers represent
about 0.2% of the arrests in the Thames Valley policing area,
and most of those relate to actions that take place off-duty and
away from school. These are tiny numbers, and I suspect that,
if anything, officers are more reluctant to arrest a teacher,
in the same way as they would be more reluctant to arrest a police
officer, a doctor or people in a comparable line of business.
I don't think that we are particularly over-ready to arrest teachers,
but on occasions it is necessary.
Q39 Chairman: Nick, I picked on
you because that point came out very strongly at the end of the
first session. Sir Steve, you have heard some of the evidence
this morning, do you perceive this as a problem, or do you think
it's a storm in a teacup?
Sir Steve Bullock: I think that
it is a problem, in two ways. Local authorities have a dual role.
We have an absolute responsibility to safeguard children but we
also have a duty of care to teachers who are in our employment
or are working in schools that we have relationships with. That
means that we have to think very carefully about how we get the
balance right and how we give advice. I was very struck by something
that was said in the earlier session. The other part of itother
people might want to say more about thisis that the people
who have to deal with these things, which will come up out of
a clear blue sky, even if they have had theoretical training,
very often won't have had any previous experience. We are expecting
them to make judgments in a climate in which if you get the judgment
wrong you are likely to be pilloried yourself. That is at the
heart of it, and is why what I think we look to local authorities
to do is to support both parties: to support the school, the head,
the chair of governors and so on, but also to be sure that the
teacher, or other member of staff, who is accused is getting their
support. Trying to get that balance right is our challenge.
6 Note by witness: The number of people arrested
in the Thames Valley in 2008 was 68,376. Back