Pupil charged with trying to buy machine gun cannot be expelled

Tribunal ruled exclusion of 14-year-old unfair as investigation incomplete

A Northern Irish grammar school has lost a High Court challenge to the reinstatement of a pupil expelled after allegedly trying to buy a sub-machine gun and ammunition. File image.

A Northern Irish grammar school has lost a High Court challenge to the reinstatement of a pupil expelled after allegedly trying to buy a sub-machine gun and ammunition. File image.

 

A Northern Irish grammar school has lost a High Court challenge to the reinstatement of a pupil expelled after allegedly trying to buy a sub-machine gun and ammunition.

The school’s board of governors issued proceedings after an appeals tribunal’s finding that permanent exclusion had been a disproportionate step against the boy, who was 14 at the time.

He was arrested at a retail park in Coleraine, Co Derry in April following a police operation and charged with attempting to purchase a sub-machine gun and 100 rounds of live ammunition with intent to endanger life. He was released on bail while the criminal case continued.

The decision to expel him from school was subsequently overturned on appeal, and he returned to the classroom in September.

Lawyers representing the board of governors sought to judicially review the outcome of the tribunal, arguing it had erred in law by disregarding the incident which led to his arrest.

Paul McLaughlin, counsel for the tribunal, insisted the arrest should have been ignored in the disciplinary process because the investigation was ongoing.

The boy’s barrister described him as a “dedicated, ambitious young man” in a critical GCSE year of study. He had complied with all bail conditions and is being monitored to ensure he cannot leave school grounds during breaks.

Mr Justice McCloskey acknowledged the board of governors faced complex legal duties in stressing and pressing conditions.

However, he said more was required of them in response to the information available prior to reaching an expulsion decision.