Cocaine teacher banned for bogus sick note

2nd September 2011 at 01:00
He forged a doctor's email stating that he had swine flu to delay disciplinary hearing

A teacher at a church primary school who was caught with drugs and then impersonated a doctor by forging a sick note to get out of a disciplinary hearing has been banned from classrooms indefinitely.

John O'Leary, who had been due to appear before the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) after being found in possession of cocaine, sent an email to the watchdog purporting to be from his GP.

The email - sent from a free Yahoo! account in the name of Dr Nigel Dixon of the Fairfax Group Practice in Prestwich, Greater Manchester - stated that the teacher had swine flu and must avoid unnecessary contact with adults "until a minimum of five days after the symptoms started".

It won Mr O'Leary the postponement he was seeking, but his forgery was later discovered when Dr Dixon confirmed the email was not sent by him or anyone at his practice.

A GTC disciplinary panel ruled that Mr O'Leary had "deliberately deceived" the professional body with his "fabricated" sick note.

"You acted dishonestly, which adversely affects the public interest as regards the teaching profession and falls well short of the standards expected of you as a teacher," said panel chairman Derek Johns.

The original GTC case arose after Mr O'Leary, then a teacher at St Edwards RC Primary School in Rusholme, Manchester, was arrested for possessing cocaine at a nightclub in September 2007. He accepted a police caution two months later.

The teacher was called to appear before a disciplinary panel in December 2009, but claimed he had contracted swine flu and applied for an adjournment, which was refused due to lack of medical evidence. But the day before his hearing he sent the bogus doctor's email to a GTC official and the adjournment was granted.

The GTC panel said this "amounted to forgery" as it found Mr O'Leary guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

He was struck off the register and will remain barred from teaching indefinitely, although he can apply to have the ban lifted after two years.

Mr Johns told him: "We consider the dishonesty matter too serious for a suspension. Your actions were premeditated and dishonest. You have not put forward any mitigation or account of your actions and have not therefore demonstrated any insight in relation to (the) allegation.

"Accordingly, the committee has concluded that a prohibition order is the appropriate sanction. We repeat that you acted dishonestly and the committee finds (the) allegation to be a serious departure from the code of conduct and the expectations of the profession.

"To act as you did impacts adversely on the reputation of the profession. You took advantage of another professional, and a further relevant consideration is that you actively misled your professional body, having been denied the adjournment you sought."


'Various states of undress'

A primary teacher who stored pornographic images of women on a school memory stick - which were then seen by a pupil and her mother - has been reprimanded by the GTC.

Christopher McIntee, who worked at Corrie Primary School in Denton, near Manchester, claimed that showing the images in April last year had been an accident, which the GTC agreed was "quite possible".

The memory stick contained 20 thumbnail images of women in "various states of undress", the GTC said.

Mr McIntee admitted fault immediately following the incident with the parent and Year 6 pupil.

But at a GTC hearing last week, he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct and was given a reprimand that will remain on his file for two years.

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