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Supreme Court delivers significant ruling on legal representation at disciplinary hearings

29 June 2011

The Supreme Court has ruled that employees at disciplinary hearings do not have an automatic right to be legally represented under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Under Article 6 of the ECHR an individual is entitled to a fair hearing.

In R (on the application of G) v The Governors of X School the Supreme Court overturned an earlier Court of Appeal ruling that decided that the right to a fair hearing under Article 6 includes a right to legal representation where the issue in question is so serious it could mean that the individual could be barred from their chosen field.

The case followed a complaint made against a teaching assistant (G) for inappropriate sexual conduct by a 15 year old boy who was undertaking work experience at the school. The governors conducted an internal investigation and following a disciplinary hearing G was dismissed. G was not allowed legal representation at the disciplinary hearing or the appeal hearing. He argued this violated his human rights under Article 6.

In overturning the Court of Appeals decision the Supreme Court concluded that the school could only determine the issue of his employment with them. The ability of the teacher to practice his profession in the future could only be determined by the Independent Safeguarding Authority which came into existence during the case.

James Tait, employment lawyer at Browne Jacobson, commented:

"This decision is highly significant because in cases such as this, there is no entitlement for a teacher to take a lawyer to an internal disciplinary meeting.

"Despite the majority opinion, this is not necessarily the end of the debate so far as other professions, such as the legal profession, are concerned. If the disciplinary process involved could determine definitely the ability of a person to carry on their profession, then there is still an argument to be had that legal representation should be allowed."

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Lakhbir Rakar

Lakhbir Rakar

PR Manager