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R (G) v Governors of X School [2011]

R (G) v Governors of X School [2011] UKSC 30 examined whether the claimant's rights under Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) were engaged in a disciplinary hearing conducted by X School. The claimant argued that the school's refusal to allow him legal representation violated his Article 6 rights.

The background to the appeal involved the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, which mandates schools to report dismissals involving findings of sexual misconduct to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). Part 1 of Schedule 3 of the Act outlines ISA's procedures, including the opportunity for individuals facing inclusion on the children's barred list to make representations. The claimant, a music assistant at X School, faced disciplinary proceedings due to allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a student. Despite his request for legal representation, the school refused.

The disciplinary panel found the claimant guilty of gross misconduct, leading to his summary dismissal. The claimant argued that the denial of legal representation breached his Article 6 rights and sought judicial review. His claim was upheld at the High Court and Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court, however, allowed the appeal by a majority. The lead judgment by Lord Dyson concluded that Article 6(1) did not apply to the disciplinary proceedings. While the right to practice as a teaching assistant might be directly determined by ISA's decision to include him on the barred list, the school's disciplinary proceedings were only concerned with his employment status, not his civil rights. Additionally, the disciplinary proceedings did not exert substantial influence over ISA's decision-making process.

Lord Dyson endorsed the test of substantial influence formulated by Laws LJ in the Court of Appeal. This test considers factors such as whether the decision in one set of proceedings could significantly impact the determination of civil rights in another set of proceedings. Applying this test, the majority found that the school's decision did not satisfy the criteria for substantial influence, thus concluding that Article 6 rights were not engaged at the disciplinary hearing stage.

However, Lord Kerr dissented, arguing that the disciplinary proceedings were critical in testing the evidence against the claimant and should be viewed as part of the overall process determining his civil rights. He emphasised the importance of considering the fairness of the entire process rather than focusing solely on individual stages. He also contended that the claimant should have been allowed legal representation at the internal disciplinary hearing to safeguard his rights under Article 6. He believed that denying legal representation at this stage could jeopardise the fairness of the process.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court held that Article 6(1) did not apply to the school's disciplinary proceedings, as they were not directly determinative of the claimant's civil rights. The decision highlights the complex interplay between disciplinary proceedings and the protection of civil rights under the ECHR.

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