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Teacher accused of sexual impropriety against student goes to High Court to stop garda vetting notification

The student was 19-years-old at the time of the allegations.

Image: Niall Carson via PA

A SCHOOLTEACHER HAS asked the High Court for orders preventing the Teaching Council of Ireland from notifying the National Vetting Bureau of concerns that arose during an investigation into the teacher’s relationship with a former student.

Justice Michael Hanna heard that the proposed notification arises out of the council’s investigation into complaints about the teacher’s conduct towards a male student, who was 19 years of age at the relevant time.

The allegations relate to incidents in November 2016 that the teacher allowed the student consume alcohol while alone with him and that the teacher was under the influence of alcohol to the degree he was incapable of discharging his duties.

It was also alleged the teacher sent the student messages requesting him to retract information he provided to the school principal and the Garda Siochana after the school head had expressly stated that no contact should be made with the student.

Following an inquiry, the council concluded that the public interest was served by requesting the teacher not to repeat the conduct. The teacher had undertaken to comply and had apologised for any distress caused.  The council had not proceeded with regard to allegations of the teacher’s alleged sexual impropriety, which he vehemently denies, towards the student.

The teacher claimed in court that arising out of the investigation the Teaching Council now intends to send a notification to the National Vetting Bureau, which is the Garda unit that conducts vetting of persons to increase the protection of children and vulnerable persons through safer recruitment decisions.

The teacher, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, claims the Teaching Council’s actions are a blatant breach of his rights, an attack on his right to earn a living and a direct attack on his good name. He says the council is not entitled to do this because the student at the centre of the allegations was 19 and not a child at the relevant time. He also claims that Tusla had been informed about the matter but, because of the student’s age, had declined to get involved.

The Teaching Council, which regulates teaching standards in Ireland, denies each and every allegation of wrongdoing made against it by the teacher. The teacher claimed it had acted in bad faith and that “baseless” allegations before it included sexual assault, providing drugs and alcohol to students, predatory behaviour and emotional abuse.

The council has claimed it was perfectly entitled to form a view that this material triggered its obligation to notify the Vetting Bureau. It says that under the 2012 NVB Act it is obliged to notify the bureau of its concerns arising out of an investigation into allegations and complaints of any alleged treatment of a former student by teachers and would notify the bureau unless restrained by the court.

The council does accept that a data protection breach had occurred in its sending a report in error to another person and expressed its regret for what occurred. The teacher had been dismissed by the school for gross misconduct and, although that decision had been appealed, the matter had been settled before the appeal was determined.

Following an application by the Teaching Council, the High Court also suspended his teaching registration, which was subsequently lifted. Last month, the teacher secured a temporary injunction restraining the council from making a notification under the Vetting Bureau Act. The Teaching Council has opposed the application and say the injunction should be discharged.

The teacher’s application to keep the injunction in place until the matter has been determined came before Judge Hanna who said that the case should be heard as soon as possible and adjourned the proceedings into September for a full hearing.

The injunction is to remain in place until the hearing and the teacher concerned gave an undertaking not to apply for jobs which required an applicant to be vetted.

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Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

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