BNP teacher case postponed over fears of violence
The General Teaching Council (GTC) has been forced to postpone a highly charged case against a teacher who is a member of the British National Party (BNP) over police fears that it will lead to clashes between protesters.
Adam Walker could become the first teacher to be struck off for religious intolerance after being accused of posting anti-Muslim comments on the internet while using a school laptop.
But his hearing, which was due to start in Birmingham this week, has been put back after West Midlands police warned it could lead to "public order" problems.
This follows violent clashes in Birmingham city centre earlier this month between the right-wing English Defence League and anti-fascist campaigners, leading to 90 arrests.
Mr Walker, who resigned from Houghton Kepier Sports College at Houghton- le-Spring, near Sunderland, in 2007, has been charged with unacceptable professional conduct. He has previously admitted posting criticisms of immigrants and Muslims, but claims he has been victimised for his political affiliations.
Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, protested outside one of Mr Walker's earlier hearings in November last year, describing proceedings as "farcical" and a "politically motivated show trial".
Mr Walker used a loudhailer to tell supporters: "It's absolutely disgusting that I am being hauled over the coals by the GTC because of my political beliefs. There's a word called love, but if you love your country, you are a racist in this day and age, and that is wrong."
Fearing that organised protests would escalate, West Midlands police urged the GTC to postpone the hearing to a date "when local community tensions have subsided".
The teaching council agreed that the concerns were serious enough to reschedule the case, but it had not been possible to find an alternative venue. It also raised concerns about the length of time it is taking to deal with the case, which had its first hearing last September.
Mr Walker had the case put back earlier this year when he won a fight to have Judy Moorhouse, the then chair of the GTC, removed from his disciplinary panel after he claimed that, as a known critic of the BNP, she would be biased.
Publishing its decision to postpone this week, the GTC said community tensions may persist in Birmingham for some time but that it would reschedule as a "matter of urgency".
A spokesman for West Midlands police said: "Previous hearings have attracted supporters of Mr Walker and counter-protesters, and incidents of disorder have followed. Concerns over the timing and venue meant a postponement was the best option to ensure public safety.
"We acknowledge the committee's concern that the matter should be expedited as soon as possible."
Chris Keates, general secretary of teaching union the NASUWT, said the time and money spent on the case would be unnecessary if the GTC banned BNP members from being teachers.
"The time the case has taken has not been caused by prevarication by the GTC, but by BNP members trying to milk the system to promote themselves and their organisation," she said.