Dismissal of headteacher from Stowmarket school role was unfair – tribunal
A former headteacher who was cleared of assaulting a child but later sacked from his school in connection with the allegation was unfairly dismissed.
That is the verdict of an employment tribunal which said it had “concerns” about the internal investigation conducted into David Dee’s actions.
Mr Dee is said to have won plaudits from governors for his “very positive start” after six months in charge of Cedars Park Primary School in Stowmarket.
However he appeared before magistrates in Ipswich in September 2014 charged with common assault against a child, but was subsequently cleared after a trial.
Despite his acquittal, a panel of school governors later found him guilty of gross misconduct and he was sacked in June 2015.
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He had “expressed regret” for what happened and added he would have done things differently with the benefit of hindsight.
While an employment tribunal sitting in Bury St Edmunds yesterday heard how witnesses to the incident said “they couldn’t believe what they were seeing”, it decided Mr Dee’s dismissal was both “procedurally unfair” and breached his employment contract.
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It was not until some time after the incident that Mr Dee “was even asked to give his account of what happened.”
As gossip spread, he was “left guessing for months” about the nature of the disciplinary charges he faced.
The tribunal had “the underlying feeling” that Suffolk County Council “hoped” Mr Dee would be convicted by the magistrates, thus justifying his dismissal.
It also had “concerns” about whether the internal investigation “was entirely impartial”.
“Taking all these matters into account, the dismissal was procedurally unfair”, the tribunal concluded.
The dismissal was also in breach of contract in that Mr Dee was sacked before his appeal against the decision had been finally decided.
The tribunal’s ruling opens the way for Mr Dee to seek compensation from the county council.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said in a statement: “The matter is still subject to ongoing legal proceedings and therefore it would be inappropriate for Suffolk County Council to comment at this time.”