BNP member sees unfair dismissal case thrown out

16th April 2010 at 01:00
Court rules that far-right former teacher was sacked for sick record not political views

A former teacher who is standing for the BNP in the general election has lost an employment tribunal case claiming he was unfairly sacked from a secondary school.

Mark Walker, who taught at Sunnydale Community College in Shildon, County Durham, said that he had been fired for his political views and involvement with the far-right party.

But a tribunal has rejected Mr Walker's case for unfair dismissal, concluding that the school had been justified in letting him go for his sick record.

Mr Walker, a technology teacher, was first suspended in March 2007 after concerns were raised that he and a teaching assistant had watched video footage of "sexual activity" on a school computer.

He denied the allegation, but admitted using the computer to access the BNP website. He also later admitted that he was standing for the BNP in council elections.

In September of that year, while still suspended, further allegations were made that Mr Walker had abused his position of trust by using a school email account for "inappropriate email exchanges" with a 16-year-old female ex-pupil.

This sparked an investigation by children's charity the NSPCC, which concluded that the correspondence suggested a sexual relationship between Mr Walker and the girl. The NSPCC questioned whether he should be put in a position of trust.

However, during the same period Mr Walker became ill and remained unfit for work. Sick notes given to the school said he was suffering the effects of excessive alcohol, stress and anxiety, the tribunal noted.

In September 2007, more than 100 people demonstrated outside the school with placards in support of Mr Walker, claiming that he had been suspended because of his membership of the BNP.

A further demonstration was led by Mr Walker's brother, Adam, another former teacher and BNP activist, the tribunal found.

Adam Walker, who is also standing as a BNP candidate in the election, is involved in an ongoing case with the General Teaching Council for England and could become the first teacher to be struck off for religious intolerance.

He admits posting anti-Muslim comments on a website using a school laptop, but claims that he is being persecuted for his political views. His case is due to be heard next month.

Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, sent an email to all teachers at Sunnydale, urging them to resolve Mark Walker's case. "Inevitably, if protests escalate, there will be a detrimental effect on your working environment and the reputation and standing of the school within the community," he wrote.

Mr Walker, having refused to release an occupational health report to the school, was subsequently dismissed by Durham County Council for his sick record at the end of 2008.

The judge in charge of the tribunal praised the head's conduct and criticised Mr Walker's behaviour. His "culpable and blameworthy conduct contributed to his dismissal to the extent of 100 per cent", the judge ruled.

There were recent calls at the conferences of teaching unions the NUT and NASUWT to outlaw BNP members being teachers. But a government-commissioned review recommended against a blanket ban, saying that it would be "taking a very large sledgehammer to crack a minuscule nut".

Original paper headline: `Blameworthy' BNP member sees unfair dismissal case thrown out

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