The clarity that comes when looking deeper into witness statements
Published 22 February 2023
If you deny a serious allegation but colleagues suggest you are guilty, what are the chances of you being able to prove your innocence?
Davina thought zero. It was despite the fact she categorically denied verbally abusing a male parent at the school where she worked.
But three colleagues provided witness statements considered to support the allegation.
School business manager Davina accepted there was a disagreement, but was adamant she was not to blame.
The original complaint that Davina, who had worked at the school for four years, made a homophobic comment was dropped.
And following a disciplinary investigation the allegation levelled against Davina was one of unprofessional conduct.
It was based on the fact she admitted being involved in the row and raising her voice.
The invite to the subsequent disciplinary hearing warned that dismissal was a potential outcome to the meeting.
The year before Davina had faced different allegations and exercised her right to be accompanied at a previous disciplinary hearing. An experienced female teacher acted as her companion on that occasion.
Her colleague declined the opportunity to do so again. She was concerned about the possible outcome and felt she would be out of her depth.
However, she was able to provide Davina with details for our Employee Support Centre.
Davina discussed the case with our representative and provided the evidence to support the allegation.
The complaint alleged Davina called the man a highly offensive term in front of others, and shouted and swore at him.
The witnesses in different words confirmed that Davina and the parent were both loud and also that they did not see how the disagreement started, they went to see what was happening after hearing raised voices and it stopped very quickly after one of them intervened.
Our representative picked out several inconsistencies in the witness accounts and also noted that they did not actually support the complaint.
While Davina claimed she reacted to the parent shouting and being abusive to her, he claimed it was her who acted in that way towards him.
Crucially there was no witness evidence to how the disagreement started.
Our representative discussed potential outcomes with Davina.
She did not want to continue working at the school, but wanted to clear her name and leave.
Davina felt the attitude of the headteacher changed towards her after the previous disciplinary case.
She was convinced if he did not dismiss her this time it was only a matter of time.
Therefore, Davina’s desired outcome was to be able to leave with a settlement agreement.
At the disciplinary hearing our representative argued the complaint lacked integrity and credibility. It was based on the fact there was no corroboration for the allegation Davina used an offensive slur or that she swore at the parent.
The hearing was told it was effectively the word of the parent against that of Davina in relation as to who was to blame. Our representative said that in such situations legal precedent is the alleged wrongdoer should be given the benefit of any doubt.
Our representative in a comprehensive presentation in support of Davina’s case highlighted the inconsistencies in the witness statements and demonstrated how they did not in fact support the complaint.
The hearing was told Davina regretted raising her voice but only did so to try and get her point across to the irate parent. It was said that she had taken appropriate learning from what occurred, which should provide assurance she would not be involved in a similar incident in future.
Her previous good work in the school and good nature was detailed to the hearing to assert what occurred was completely out of character.
Our representative suggested towards the end of his presentation that Davina would welcome a discussion to explore different ways of resolving the case. The HR representative picked up on this.
During a break there was a honest and frank discussion about Davina’s desired outcome.
The disciplinary allegations were later dismissed, and Davina signed a settlement agreement that allowed her to leave on terms she was happy with.