Dismissal for failure to disclose a relationship with a sex offender was fair


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The Supreme Court has held in Reilly v Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council that the tribunal was correct in finding that a school had acted reasonably in dismissing a headteacher for misconduct on the basis that she did not disclose her relationship with a person convicted of making indecent images of children.

Ms Reilly was the headteacher of a primary school and had a longstanding relationship with IS. They bought a house together as an investment. IS lived in the house but Ms Reilly did not. There was no romantic attachment between them but they went on holiday together. IS was convicted of making indecent images of children and was made subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order which forbid him from having unsupervised access to children under 18. Ms Reilly sought advice from various people about whether she had to disclose information about her relationship with IS to the school. Understanding that it was not necessary she did not disclose it. She was subsequently suspended, charged with gross misconduct and dismissed on the basis that she was under a duty to assist the governing body discharge its functions, which include safeguarding and child protection, and that her failure to disclose her relationship with IS put the safety of children at risk.

The Supreme Court held that Ms Reilly's association with IS posed a risk to the children and she had a duty to inform the school of it. It was Ms Reilly's "continuing lack of insight" in her refusal to accept that she had been in breach of the duty to disclose her relationship that "rendered it inappropriate for her to continue to run the school".

Take note: It's worth noting that the Court found that dismissal in these circumstances was not inevitable. If Ms Reilly had admitted that she had made an error of judgement the school may have considered an alternative sanction. However, it is likely that the school would have taken a cautious approach. Child protection is an issue which, over recent years, has become increasingly politicised and emotionally charged and, in this climate, it would be a brave governing body which would decide against dismissal.

This article is taken from HR Law - April 2018.

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