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Sunday 21 September 2014

Social worker backing the return of teacher cleared of sexual abuse should be disciplined, High Court told

Published 08/04/2014 | 16:31

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A HSE social worker should be silenced or disciplined for continuing to tell parents that a suspended teacher - who was cleared of sexually abusing three pupils - should not have been reinstated, the High Court was told.

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Despite three trials and a separate HSE finding that the allegations against the man were "inconclusive", parents are allegedly unhappy with the decision to reinstate him since April last year.  Before returning, he agreed to allow CCTV to be installed in the classroom and the door of the room kept open while he teaches in the national school.

The teacher is now seeking court orders requiring the HSE to fully vindicate his name and ensure all material submitted to the national vetting bureau system, which protects children and vulnerable people from potential abusers, is withdrawn.

Mr Justice David Keane dismissed an application from the board of management of the school to be joined in his action against the HSE.

The judge said he did not accept the school board is "vitally interested in or clearly affected by" the proceedings.

The judge also referred to letters from the school's solicitors in which they said one of the HSE social workers involved in the original investigation had been telling parents that he (social worker) did not share the HSE's "inconclusive" view of the case and had serious concerns about the teacher's reinstatement.

The solicitors said the school had relied on the outcome of a HSE investigation, which was inconclusive and disclosed no adverse findings against  him, when it decided to reinstate him.

The social worker should "be silenced and/or be subjected to disciplinary procedures" or else the HSE should withdraw its December 2012 "inconclusive" finding, they also said.

Mr Justice Keane outlined the lenghty history of the case which began in June 2004 when the teacher, who cannot be named, was placed on administrative leave following a complaint from a parent of a third class pupil that the child had been inappropriately touched.

The school board and the HSE began separate inquiries into the allegation but they were put on hold when  gardai got involved and he was charged with abusing the third class pupil.

In the meantime, the teacher had brought High Court proceedings against the HSE over the original 2004 decision, following a case conference involving the parent and professionals, which found the first child's complaint against him to be credible. 

In 2005, the man took High Court proceedings and the case conference decision was quashed following talks.

The following year, he brought further proceedings when the HSE attempted to hold another case conference and those proceedings were struck out on consent between the parties

By then, the garda investigation was underway. The case went to trial and was  acquitted of all charges involving the first pupil in July 2009.   He had also been charged with similar offences against two other children and was cleared in separate trials relating to those in 2010 and 2011.

The HSE then resumed its original inquiry. 

The HSE requested the teacher to supply it with the book of evidence in his criminal trial for the purpose of their investigation and also to attend for a meeting with the HSE's social work department in September 2011. 

He refused to attend  as  the HSE had not yet provided his lawyers with the documentation relevant to its investigation and he would not consider supplying the book of evidence until this information had been supplied to him.  He also did not accept the contents of the book of evidence.

In December 2012, the HSE notified the school it had concluded its inquiry and said that "on balance the outcome of the allegations (against the teacher) is inconclusive."

He was then reinstated but was not happy however with the HSE's "inconclusive" decision because it had not afforded him the opportunity to properly address the complaints against him.  He then brought further High Court proceedings which have yet to be heard.

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