Mr Hargreaves was employed as a Teacher at Manchester Grammar School from 1st September 2005 until his dismissal on 17th June 2016.
On 3rd March 2016, there was an interaction between Mr Hargreaves and a pupil which led to his dismissal. It was reported by a pupil (“pupil A”) that Mr Hargreaves had grabbed him, shoved him against the wall and then pushed two forefingers against his throat. When reporting this matter to his form tutor, on 7 March 2016, pupil A had apparently presented as visibly upset.
Following an investigation Mr Hargreaves was invited to a disciplinary hearing to face three allegations: (1) of unwanted and unreasonable physical conduct against pupil A, (2) of breach of his duties as a teacher and of the Code of Conduct and (3) of breach of trust and confidence. The hearing took place between 7 and 10 June before the School’s High Master, Dr Boulton, and Academic Deputy Head, Dr Neil Smith. Mr Hargreaves attended with his Trade Union representative. Although he told the ET that he had been unwell at the time, nothing had been said to that effect at the disciplinary hearing and he accepted he had all the statements and every opportunity to ask for further evidence to be obtained.
Witness statements were provided as part of the investigation report, but it was decided not to disclose three witness statements who said that they had not seen Mr Hargreaves do anything. This was not disclosed to the teacher or in the investigation report.
It was concluded, on the balance of probabilities, that the allegations were proven and that he should be summarily dismissed. This was explained in a letter on 17 June 2016.
As the School was bound to do, it had also referred the case to the National College of Teaching and Leadership (“NCTL”) and to the Disclosure and Barring Service (“DBS”).
Mr Hargreaves appealed. The appeal was heard by two Governors on 29th June 2016. Ultimately, however, it was concluded that he was guilty of the alleged conduct and dismissal was the appropriate sanction. That decision was communicated by letter of 6th July 2016.
Following his dismissal, Mr Hargreaves brought a claim for unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal. The Employment Tribunal concluded it was more likely than not that he had engaged in unwarranted and unreasonable physical conduct on 3 March 2016, by pushing pupil A against a wall and pushing his fingers against pupil A’s throat; that was gross misconduct and the School was not in breach of contract in dismissing Mr Hargreaves without notice.
Employment Appeal Tribunal
The EAT dismissed Mr Hargreaves’ appeal, finding that the school had carried out a reasonable investigation in light of the seriousness of the allegations and that the decision to withhold the witness evidence was within the band of reasonable responses.