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Disclosure of alleged sexual impropriety would have 'devastating effect' on teacher, court told

The teacher has brought a High Court challenge over the Garda vetting bureau’s decision to disclose the details to the Teaching Council.

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A TEACHER AT a South Dublin school has brought a High Court challenge over the Garda vetting bureau’s decision to disclose details about allegations of sexual impropriety to the Teaching Council.

The male teacher, who denies any wrongdoing, claims the decision is flawed and should be set aside because the vetting bureau arrived at its finding using documents that the teacher and his lawyers were not given sight of.

The secondary school teacher was the subject of allegations, made to the Gardaí in 2013, that over 20 years ago he had massaged the backs of two female children, who were not his students, in an inappropriate and sexual way.

At the High Court Michael O’Higgins, senior counsel for the teacher, said when the allegations were made his client made a voluntary statement to the Gardaí, “strongly denying the allegations.”

A file was sent to the DPP, who directed that there be no prosecution. Counsel said that as a teacher he is periodically subjected to the Garda vetting process.

Last year the teacher, who can’t be identified for legal reasons, was informed the Garda Vetting office was considering disclosing certain specified information, namely matters concerning the 2013 allegations, to the Teaching Council.

The council regulates and promotes the teaching profession in Ireland, and retains the power to terminate the teacher’s registration.

His client was shocked by the bureau’s finding, and made submissions to the bureau regarding the proposed disclosure, which he says should not be forwarded to the teaching council.

He sought sight of all the documentation and material relied on by the bureau as part of its decision-making process.

Without that material, counsel said, his client did not know how best to make proper submissions on the material.

‘Inherently flawed’

Counsel said that the bureau’s drawing of a preliminary adverse conclusion without disclosing the full material upon which it had formed its view was an inherently flawed procedure.

The bureau has a legal duty to disclose information which is relevant, counsel said. The teacher had been invited by the bureau to make a Data Access Request, counsel said.

This was an error by the bureau, which counsel said has acted in an unfair manner and has denied his client a fair hearing.

The court heard that the teacher had previously gone through the Garda vetting process in 2006 and 2016 and no issue had arisen.

However, it would appear that the allegations from 2013 were inadvertently excluded from consideration in 2016, the court heard.

Counsel added that his client has further been informed that the vetting bureau intends to make the disclosure to the Council in the coming days.

His client has been a teacher for many years, and was involved in coaching sports. His record is exemplary, counsel said.

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The allegations and the potential disclosure to the council would have a devastating effect on him.

In judicial review proceedings against the Chief Bureau Officer of the National Vetting Bureau and the Garda Commissioner teacher seeks various orders and declarations.

He also seeks declarations including that the procedures adopted by the respondents in determining if certain information about the teacher should be disclosed did not adequately respect his ECHR or his Constitutional rights to fair procedures and privacy.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted, on an ex-parte basis, by Mr Justice Charles Meenan.

The judge made orders prohibiting the media from naming the applicant and granted a stay on the vetting disclosure process until the case has been determined.

The stay and the naming order, the judge said, could be lifted following an application by the respondents on notice to the applicant’s lawyers.

The matter was made returnable to a date in October.

About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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