As of Monday the law will change and teachers will become the first group of people in Britain to be given automatic anonymity when accused of a criminal offence.
The provision, in section 13 of the Education Act 2011, gives anonymity for a teacher when a complaint is made by or on behalf of any pupil at the school at which the individual teacher works, and remains in place until the individual is charged, but can be lifted if an application is made to a magistrates’ court, which the Government says would almost certainly be the case in a situation like the one in the news.
The law will make it a criminal offence for anyone even to inform parents or the general public that an identified teacher has admitted that the allegation is true and has resigned, has been disciplined, or even cautioned for the offence.
It would even apply if the accusation is referred to in public, for example at an employment tribunal hearing at which the teacher claims unfair dismissal, with the penalty for breaching the anonymity being a fine of up to £5,000.
This will protect teachers who have been accused, wrongly in some cases, from public opprobrium and potential attack until there is no shadow of a doubt that they have actually committed the offence.
A survey for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found that one in four school staff has been subject to false allegations from pupils and said that it wants teachers to be confident that they can impose discipline without their careers and personal lives potentially being blighted by baseless claims.
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London
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