By Jessica Donaldson
The Victorian Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal made against a ruling by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeal Tribunal that allowed two teachers convicted of sex offences to return to teaching positions.
The two teachers, whose names have been suppressed, were convicted in 1997 and 2006 respectively, and due to the nature of their offending they both received automatic disqualification from teaching.
However, the tribunal later decided that both teachers should be given clearance to teach again after ruling that the two men ‘would not pose an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children’.
The first teacher, convicted in 2006 of groping a 16-year-old boy, is planning to teach in the hospitality industry and is not intending to work with children, although he may occasionally have students under the age of 18 years. The man’s offending was considered an isolated case, and his immediate remorse was taken into account by the tribunal.
The second teacher’s offending was of a more serious nature, but it was found at the time of the offence that he was clinically depressed and taking a new medication that was known to ‘disinhibit’ users. The tribunal considered his professional achievements, his character, and a psychiatric assessment, as well as the fact that his one-off offence had taken place 15 years ago.
The Secretary of the Department of Justice appealed the decision made by the tribunal to allow the men to return to the teaching profession, arguing to the Court of Appeal that it was not in the public interest to allow the men to teach, and that the public’s trust in the security checks teachers undergo would be undermined.
But the Court of Appeal rejected the argument, saying ‘public confidence in the system is better served by rational decision making based on objective evidence rather than by avoiding such decision-making out of fear that the public will think ill of it’.