AM v Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Court of Appeal - Protection of Children Act List and Prohibition from teaching and working in schools, March 31, 2005, [2004] EWCST 310(PC)

Resolution Date:March 31, 2005
Issuing Organization:Protection of Children Act List and Prohibition from teaching and working in schools
Actores:AM v Secretary of State for Education and Skills
 
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AM v Secretary of State for Education and Skills [2004] 310(PC) (31 March 2005)

A. M.

-v-

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills

Application No. [2004] 310.PC

Before:

Mr John Reddish (Chairman)

Ms Elena Fowler

Ms Pat McLoughlin

Hearing dates: 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 14th and 15th March 2005

Application

On 3rd May 2004 the applicant appealed under section 4(1)(a) of the Protection of Children Act 1999 against the decision of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills to include him in the list kept under section 1 of that Act.

Representation

At the hearing, Mr Robert Palmer of Counsel represented the Secretary of State and Mr Adam Korn of Counsel represented the applicant.

The evidence

The Tribunal heard oral evidence on behalf of the Secretary of State from Mr Roger Carruthers, a Principal Officer for Social Services Performance and Review and from Mr Patrick Power, the Managing Director of a Children's Trust.

The Tribunal heard oral evidence on behalf of the applicant from the applicant himself; Mrs Patricia Peters, the proprietor of a training and consultation service for learning organisations; Dr Keith White, the Director of a residential community; Ms Ruth Lockhart, a teacher of psychology; and Dr Gillian Broster, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.

The Tribunal also received written evidence on behalf of the applicant from Mr Stewart McCafferty, a freelance Family Therapist; Ms Shila Khan, a Senior Systemic Psychotherapist; Ms Maria McKay, the Vice Principal of a Sixth Form College; Ms Helen High, a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist; Mrs Rita McGrath, a Senior Child Guidance Social Worker; Mrs B. B., the Team Secretary for the group of Psychiatric Social Workers of which the applicant was the Leader; Mrs Dianne Wood; Mrs Ann Coletta and Mr P.H and Ms L.S., Mrs C.M., Mr M.H., Mrs M. R., Miss V.J., Miss L.N., Ms L.S., Mrs S. P., Mr and Mrs J.S., Miss R., Mr C.S., Mrs R.B., Mrs J.L., Mrs B.R. and Mr M.S., all former clients, or parents of former clients, of the applicant. This evidence was not challenged on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The Tribunal read the documents submitted by the parties (in 3 bundles comprising a total of 2,179 pages) and the extracts from books by Ms Martha Straus and Mr Daniel Hughes, submitted on behalf of the applicant during the hearing. The Tribunal also viewed videotaped recordings of the interviews of 3 children (V, L and M) and videotaped recordings of (i) a therapy session conducted by the applicant involving V and (ii) a therapy session conducted by the applicant involving another child, J.

Preliminary matters

On 21st September 2004 the President of the Tribunal made a restricted reporting order, pursuant to regulation 18 of the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults and Care Standards Tribunal Regulations 2002, prohibiting the publication (including by electronic means) in a written publication available to the public, or the inclusion in a relevant programme for reception in England and Wales, of any matter likely to lead members of the public to the identify the applicant or any child. The President also made an order, pursuant to regulation 19, directing that members of the press and public be excluded from the hearing. The Tribunal decided to extend the restricted reporting order indefinitely, being satisfied that such an order would be appropriate to safeguard the welfare of the children concerned and to protect their private lives and that of the applicant.

Facts

The material facts found by the Tribunal were as follows:

1. The applicant was born in 1949 and is now 55 years old. He was educated at a Grammar School and subsequently took a degree in Social Studies from the University of Liverpool. In 1971 he commenced work as a trainee social worker. The applicant undertook further, postgraduate study. In 1973 he was awarded a Diploma in Applied Social Studies by the University of Edinburgh and, in 1979, a Certificate in Family Therapy by The Family Institute in Cardiff.

2. From 1976 until 1984 the applicant was employed as a Senior Social Worker in a Child Guidance Team. In 1984 he was appointed as the Principal Psychiatric Social Worker at a Child and Family Consultation Centre run in partnership by a local authority and a Mental Health NHS Trust.

3. V was born in November 1986 to a mother with learning difficulties. V had a cleft palate, which was operated upon when she was an infant. She did not receive the appropriate medical follow-up. By 1991 she had become very disruptive at home. V and her mother were referred to the Child and Family Consultation Centre where the applicant saw them. Thereafter, the applicant undertook extensive, though not continuous, family therapy with V and her mother and, after they were born, V's younger sister and brother.

4. M was born in February 1989. His sister, L was born in August 1990. After their parents separated and divorced, M and L experienced unhappiness and anxiety for an extended period. This led M to become difficult and disturbed both at home and at school and he was sometimes violent to his sister. M, L and their mother were seen by a Psychiatrist in 2000 and by a Consultant Psychiatrist in 2001-2 and were eventually referred to the applicant for family therapy.

5. In April 1993 the applicant conducted a session of family therapy with V and her mother, which he recorded on videotape. V's mother gave her written consent to this procedure. During the session the applicant touched V. First, he brushed V's hair from her eyes and commented to her mother that her hair was ``fine'' (a reference to its thickness, not its quality). Secondly, later in the session, the applicant gave V a reassuring pat on the back. Neither of the applicant's actions appeared in any way sinister.

6. In March 1995, when V was 8, the Deputy Head of her school reported concerns about her health and welfare. She said that V appeared unwashed, pale and lethargic and that she had complained to her class teacher that her mother had hit her and pulled her hair.

7. In May 1995 V's mother had a discussion with a social worker in which she reported that V had been ``playing at having sex'' with her male cousin and that the children had been licking each other's genitalia. Shortly thereafter, V's mother took V to her General Practitioner alleging that she had been sexually abused, possibly at school. V refused to be examined by the doctor. The case was referred to the Child Protection Team but they failed to investigate fully and concluded that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations of abuse. During the investigation it emerged that V's mother was not caring for her properly and needed more help and support. Her case was transferred from the Child Protection Team to the Children and Families Team for assessment but was not allocated to a social worker.

8. In October 1995 V made inappropriate sexual remarks and gestures to a member of her school's staff and accused a named boy of threatening to rape her. V frequently acted out explicit sexuality and was aggressive and threatening towards other children. She was described as ``an attention seeker who has to be the centre of everything''.

9. On 17th November 1995 V was violent towards her teacher, calling her names and accusing her of sexually abusive behaviour.

10. On 24th November 1995 V exposed herself on a school bus and used very explicit sexual language and gestures, directed towards the bus driver and the other children.

11. On 30th November 1995 V lost control completely in school. She screamed at and assaulted a teacher, protested vigorously about being touched, threw herself on the floor and indicated that she had been assaulted and sexually abused by a man whom she identified by name as her mother's former partner.

12. In December 1995 a senior social worker expressed her serious concerns about V. She said that she believed that V had been sexually abused. She was convinced that there should be an early child protection investigation. A social worker visited the family home and spoke to V's mother. She suggested that V must have acquired her extensive knowledge of coarse and abusive language from her playmates on the estate where they lived and she insisted that she had not exposed her daughter to any inappropriate sexual activity. The social worker also consulted other agencies and discovered that there was widespread concern that adults should not be alone with V because ``she makes accusations'' and could be ``flirty and manipulative''. When the social worker interviewed V she asserted that the reports made about her by her school were untrue.

13. In January 1996, the police checked the histories of V's mother's 2 male partners (and discovered that they were known criminals but not sexual offenders) and the family were again referred to the Child and Family Consultation Centre for therapy. In its referral letter, V's school expressed concerns about her demands for adult attention, her sexually explicit and offensive language, her ``casually destructive behaviour'', her constant disobedience and her ``inner conflicts and tangled emotions''. The applicant, apparently without acknowledging other professionals' concerns, agreed to undertake further therapy on the basis that the family had ``responded quite well'' before.

14. In July 1996 reports about V were made to the local education authority, who were undertaking a statutory assessment of her special educational needs. V's teachers said that she was unwilling to accept responsibility for incidents and would deny liability even when her involvement had been observed and that her inappropriate behaviour seemed to be aimed at gaining individual attention. The Headteacher of V's school reported that V was ``bright'' and ``mentally agile'' but that she frequently used inappropriate language and was obstructive and uncooperative. She also said that the school had serious concerns for V's safety because she was frequently away from...

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