Last week, the UK Supreme Court decided that a teaching assistant was not after all entitled to legal representation at disciplinary proceedings related to allegations of sexual misconduct with a child.
The High Court and Court of Appeal had previously determined that, where an adverse disciplinary decision might threaten someone’s ability to work in a chosen profession, then the European Convention on Human Rights and specifically its ‘right to a fair trial’ required legal representation at the disciplinary hearing to be permitted by the employer.
These judgments have now been overruled by the Supreme Court and the circumstances in which legal representation must be permitted at disciplinary hearings now appear to be rather more limited than previously thought. The Court reasoned that the decision making process which could have resulted in the teacher being barred from the profession (an independent regulatory process), was distinct from the employer’s decision on whether or not to dismiss. It was therefore the regulatory process which should be caught by the right to a fair trial, as the employer’s internal disciplinary process could only stop the teacher from working at that particular school.
The full judgment can be found here.