The day my life changed - I was left in limbo after sex claim

20th August 2010 at 01:00
Special needs teacher felt abandoned by local authority and police after pupil made false accusation against him

I started teaching in special needs in 1978. But in 2003 I was accused of something almost too ridiculous for words.

A young man with a history of psychiatric problems announced that he and I had conducted a sexual affair in a minibus while I was driving and with other staff and pupils present.

The first I heard of it was later that day. The head and the deputy came to my house and sensitively explained the scenario. My wife was horrified.

They didn't clarify what I was accused of, but they did say it fitted into the category of professional misconduct and bringing the profession into disrepute, and that it was a complaint of a sexual nature.

I couldn't believe it. But my superiors made it clear that they, too, didn't believe the allegations and remained supportive.

I had been working at an off-site centre and they recommended that I continue working, but in the main school. I thought it best not to come in. I was suspended by the authority two weeks later.

It was a crushing and humiliating time. I was constantly writing and phoning the local authority, begging them to get on with things, but would rarely get a reply. I had to wait 12 weeks before I was questioned. The police rang and asked me to come in. I was cautioned, arrested, searched and placed in a cell. I was questioned for three hours before being told to report back a month later.

The local authority gave me as much support as a rope gives to a hanging man. I was told I was entitled to counselling, but after the third session I'd have to pay for it. It wasn't about the money as much as their dismissive attitude.

About 15 weeks after the allegation was made, a policeman called to say there was neither DNA nor circumstantial evidence and the boy had admitted to making it up.

I was livid. It was like shaking a Coca-Cola bottle for three months, then shaking it a bit more. When I was told I had nothing to answer, it released a pressure valve and there was a bit of an explosion.

I felt angry and revengeful - not towards the young man, but towards the system and the authority that had kept me in limbo for so long. I recognise that due process must take place, but I couldn't understand the lethargy of the police and the council.

A ticket for a traffic offence is issued in about 72 hours, yet it took the police 12 weeks to speak to a person accused of committing a sexual assault. If I was such a threat to society, why did it take so long?

The school and local authority wanted me back almost immediately. It was so arrogant of them to assume I could return just like that. My whole life had been under investigation, but they acted as though nothing had happened.

I tried to get more details from the authority, but it said the information was about the young man, rather than me and thus confidential to him.

After 18 weeks I started a phased return to work. The job gave me a focus and rhythm to life that I had missed. But the accusation still haunted me.

There were things I would no longer volunteer to do, like intimate care, the administration of drugs or residential visits. You tend to look over your shoulder constantly after such an incident. Every time you intervene in an incident, you wonder if it will lead to an investigation.

I received support from my family, colleagues and union, but it felt like one person against a police and local authority juggernaut. It rolls towards you very slowly. It may not hurt you, but once it has passed, no one is there to pick up the pieces.

As told to Hannah Frankel. If you have an experience to share, email

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