Tribunal rules Head was ‘unfairly dismissed’ after manhandling unruly pupil

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A head teacher, who was fired following an unsuccessful prosecution for assault against a pupil, has won his case for unfair dismissal.

David Dee, the former Head of Cedars Primary School in Stowmarket, Suffolk, was charged with common assault after he picked up a female pupil from her chair, when she refused to leave the classroom.

He was cleared by magistrates of any criminal wrongdoing but, despite his acquittal, some months later he was summoned before a panel of governors and fired for gross misconduct.

Now, an Employment Tribunal has found that Mr Dee’s dismissal was not only procedurally unfair but also breached the terms of his employment contract.

The Tribunal heard how Mr Dee was not asked to give his account of what had happened until sometime after the incident and that he had been “left guessing for months” regarding the nature of the disciplinary charges he faced.

Mr Dee told the hearing that he “regretted” the incident and admitted that he had “gone too far.”

In its ruling the Tribunal raised concerns relating to the conduct of Suffolk County Council, which appeared to “hope” that Mr Dee would be convicted by magistrates so that the dismissal would prove to be justified.

It also stated that there were doubts as to whether the internal investigation “was entirely impartial.”

“Taking all these matters into account, the dismissal was procedurally unfair,” the Tribunal ruled.

Lara Murray an Associate and employment law expert with Palmers, said: “Despite the Head’s apparent admission that he ‘went too far’ during the incident in question, it would appear that neither the school’s governors not the County Council, followed the rules when it came to disciplinary procedures.

“This case illustrates that even where a member of staff is facing criminal accusations, there is a correct disciplinary procedure which must be followed, which balances the needs of safeguarding, with the employment rights of an individual.  A failure to observe these procedures can lead to a claim for unfair dismissal, as this case illustrates.”

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