3-year ordeal of accused lecturer;FE Focus

20th March 1998 at 00:00
College criticised over sex inquiry. David Blunkett accepts St Austell College mismanage investigating complaints against a lecturer. Ngaio Crequer reports

The lecturer at the centre of the St Austell College inquiry was accused of seriously sexually assaulting a colleague. He was suspended but not told who his accuser was until long after the alleged offence.

The college where the alleged sex attacker worked as a law lecturer carried out a three-year bungled inquiry.

Education Secretary David Blunkett eventually ordered an independent review of the case because of the college's failure. Professor Howard Newby, vice-chancellor of Southampton University, was asked to hold an inquiry by the Further Education Funding Council.

The Newby inquiry examined the grievance procedures applied by the college and assessed the extent to which they were reasonable, and how they complied with the provisions of the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act.

In 1993 a woman alleged that a colleague had seriously sexually abused her at college. She named her attacker as lecturer Keith Tregenna, a staff observer on the board of governors and branch secretary of lecturers' union NATFHE.

Principal William Hill suspended Mr Tregenna and warned him not to discuss the case except with his legal and union advisers. He was not told who had made the allegation against him until two days before a disciplinary hearing. No exact date was given but the attack was said to have taken place during a two-week period in May.

The complainant was questioned by three governors without the presence of lawyers. The panel accepted the woman's account and recommended Mr Tregenna be summarily dismissed. NATFHE lodged an appeal, and said the issue should have been investigated by the police.

Mr Tregenna's appeal against dismissal began and two days later the woman admitted she had lied about her A-level qualifications when applying for her teaching job. She took sick leave and then resigned. The college appeal panel upheld Mr Tregenna's appeal and he returned to work.

The panel ruled that the woman had suffered some severe trauma but that it was not proved that it was inflicted by Mr Tregenna. This conclusion left Mr Tregenna deeply aggrieved.

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