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Teacher suspected of possessing indecent images of children fairly dismissed

A teacher who was charged, but not prosecuted, with possession of indecent images of children, has been fairly dismissed for “some other substantial reason” (SOSR).

Whilst the teacher acknowledged a computer in his home was found to contain indecent images, he claimed he was unaware of how the images were on his computer. His employer concluded that there was not enough evidence to say whether the teacher was or was not responsible for the images. Due to safeguarding concerns regarding the children and the added reputational risk, the teacher was dismissed.

The teacher brought a claim for unfair dismissal against their employer, however this did not succeed in the employment tribunal as the dismissal was held to be for some other substantial reason and within the band of reasonable responses. This decision was overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), who decided that the teacher’s dismissal was unfair. The EAT held that the teacher’s dismissal was unfair as the teacher was dismissed for misconduct, and the employer did not have a reasonable belief of the teacher’s guilt.

However, the Court of Session has overturned the EAT’s decision and has upheld the employment tribunal’s decision – that the teacher was fairly dismissed. Since the dismissal was based on SOSR, the employer did not need a reasonable belief as to whether the teacher committed the offence. It was enough that the employer lost its trust and confidence in the teacher based on the strong probability of the teacher being an offender.