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Last Updated: Monday, 13 December, 2004, 14:49 GMT
'The whole thing turned into hysteria'

Blackboard
Teachers and pupils should have a 'level playing field'
Teachers accused of abusing pupils should be given anonymity while claims are investigated, the Tories say.

One former Lancashire headmaster, who now works for the campaign group Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers, explains how such protection would have helped him when he was arrested in 1998.

I was interviewing some parents when my secretary came into my study and said the chairman of the board of governors wanted to see me.

He handed me a letter and in it, it said I had been accused of indecent assault against a pupil in 1972.

This was on the Friday, I was to meet the board of governors on the Monday - they suspended me and felt they had to inform the parents.

Then it got into the local press, then the national press and then it was on the radio.

I didn't know the details of what I was accused of, or who the person was, for a further 10 days, by which time my name was bandied all over the place because of the allegations.

It was surreal. One morning I was standing in front of the school taking assembly and within hours I was suddenly in the thick of it.

All of the parents I knew were very supportive - but it's the ones you don't hear from

My life stopped at that moment. What do you do? How is your wife going to react?

My wife was brilliant and my children were brilliant. But it caused great upset and sadness and there's nothing much one can do.

I was surprised by the way in which the juggernaut started up very quickly - I was arrested and charged after about 10 days.

The police carried on investigating, in effect they went through pupils at the school for the previous 30 years and came up with very little. The whole thing turned into hysteria very quickly.

The whole business was very very hard because you never know what people are going to say. All of the parents I knew were very supportive - but it's the ones you don't hear from.

Because it takes so long to investigate, people start to say: "If there was no substance to the allegation surely it would have been sorted out by now?"

Conviction quashed

I didn't go to court until January 2000, by which time there had been a major investigation and they had arrested and charged other [members of staff].

Most of them never reached court, but their names were bandied around.

I went to court, was convicted and spent six weeks in prison - my appeal was the fastest that anyone knows of.

The trial was poor, to put it mildly, and my conviction was quashed - and that's how I got into FACT, because I was so outraged.

I'm not saying once an allegation is made it shouldn't be thoroughly investigated, but there should be a level playing field for everybody.

Why should a teacher, just on the strength of an allegation being made, have his or her name put in the papers?

It wasn't so much local people [knowing about the allegations], once it gets onto national radio, it's everybody, relations, friends, people who have known you many years.

By the time it was all over I didn't want to go back and be a teacher.
My worry is, I think children say things very quickly without realising the consequences of what they say.

When children make allegations, once there are believed without any question at all, they find it very difficult to say: "Actually, it wasn't like that". Once the lie, or exaggeration, is told it's very difficult to step back.

I took early retirement as headmaster. By the time it was all over I didn't want to go back and be a teacher.

I do miss teaching very much. I would love to have finished my career properly, but that was denied and I went out under a cloud. That was very difficult to accept.



SEE ALSO:
Accused teachers anonymity call
13 Dec 04 |  Politics


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