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Ex-headteacher loses appeal after being sacked over friendship with child porn downloader

Sandwell | Education | Published:

A headteacher was fairly sacked after she failed to disclose her friendship with a child porn downloader, Supreme Court judges have ruled.

Caroline Reilly met Ian Selwood 10 years before she took up her post at the primary school run by Sandwell Council.

Although their relationship was not sexual or romantic, they were very close friends and bought an investment property together.

He lived at the premises but they shared mortgage payments and she sometimes stayed overnight, said Lord Wilson.

In February 2009, she witnessed Selwood’s arrest by police on suspicion of downloading indecent images of children.

Ms Reilly was appointed head of the school, which cannot be named for legal reasons, in 2009.

It was a few months later, in February 2010, that Selwood was convicted of making indecent images of children.

But that did not put an end to Ms Reilly’s close friendship with him and, in April 2010, they went on holiday together.

The school’s governors only learned about Ms Reilly’s friendship in June 2010 and she was immediately suspended, the court heard.

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Following a disciplinary hearing, the school’s governors found her guilty of gross misconduct in failing to disclose her friendship with Selwood.

Dismissing her, the governors were concerned by her ‘refusal to accept her relationship with Mr Selwood might pose a risk to pupils and the school’.

Ms Reilly has since fought to prove her dismissal was unfair but has had her case dismissed at every stage.

Finally dashing her compensation hopes, Lord Wilson said her dismissal fell ‘within the range of reasonable responses’ open to the governors.

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Ms Reilly was obliged to help the governors safeguard pupils and knew that Selwood had 'a serious, recent conviction'.

She had access to important information about pupils, including where they lived, and had power to authorise visitors entering the school.

Her relationship with Selwood 'created a potential risk' to pupils and her failure to disclose their friendship to the governors merited her dismissal, the judge ruled.

Sitting with four other Supreme Court judges, Lord Wilson said Ms Reilly's continuing refusal to accept that she had breached her duty suggested a lack of insight that made it inappropriate for her to continue to run the school.

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