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Hakeem Ali v The Head Teacher and the Governors of the Lord Grey School, High Court, 27 June 2003

8 July 2003
The issues

Schools – exclusion – human rights.

The facts

The Claimant was a pupil at a school where there was a fire on the 8th March 2001. He and two other boys were suspected of involvement and they were excluded whilst Police enquiries continued. The Claimant argued that he had not been involved and that the fire had been started by one of the other two boys. On the 29th March they were charged with arson and the exclusion continued. The Claimant was due to sit SATS. Work was sent home by his teachers. On the 18th June, the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued. A re-integration meeting was arranged for the 13th July but the Claimant and his family did not attend for reasons, which were disputed. The School told the Claimant’s parents that the Claimant would be permanently excluded and his name removed from the School role. That happened on the 7th September 2001. The Claimant brought an action for damages against his Head Teacher and the governing body of the school, alleging a breach of Article 6 (Right to a Fair Trial) and Article 14 (Prohibition of Discrimination) and Rights under Protocol 1 Article 2 (Right to Education).

The decision

1. Article 6 had no Application. It applied only to Civil Rights and obligations and criminal charges. It had no obligation to what was conceded to be not a civil right and was not a criminal charge.

2. Under those circumstances Article 14 was not relevant either.

3. The duty under the Protocol lay on the State and not on the School. It created no right to be educated at a particular school or in a particular way – see Yanasik -v- Turkey and ST & P -v- London Borough of Brent (Court of Appeal). The expulsion might amount to a breach of the Protocol where the pupil had no access to other education. If that were the case, the Local Education Authority and not the School would be liable.

4. In these circumstances a temporary exclusion was reasonable. However an indefinite temporary exclusion was not. An exclusion must either be a permanent exclusion or an exclusion for a fixed period – either one or the other. An indefinite temporary exclusion was not known to the law. Moreover, none of the requirements of Section 65(i) or Section 65(iii) of the School’s Standards and Framework Act 1998 were complied with (Section 65(i) – should inform the parents of the period of the exclusion and the reasons for the exclusion, the fact that he may make representations and the means by which such representations may be made; and Section 65(iii) provides that the Head Teacher should inform the Local Education Authority and the governing body of the period of the exclusion or the decision that the exclusion should be permanent together with reasons).

5. The removal from the school role in the Autumn of 2001 was also unlawful.

6. These decisions were challengeable by Judicial Review. They did not give rise to a liability and damages for breach of rights under the ECHR.

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