A teacher who denies he said to a female pupil: "Call me tonight at 10.30, I have the house to myself", has been given permission by the High Court to challenge a finding of child sexual abuse against him.
The teacher said he actually told the secondary school student, as she was exiting a crowded classroom: “Stop calling me, my wife is getting worried” which, he says, was “a terrible joke”. He also denies slapping her bottom.
On Friday, Ms Justice Caroline Costello granted Frank Callanan SC, for the teacher, leave to bring judicial review proceedings against Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (CFA), to quash the finding of sexual abuse.
Counsel said the application was urgent because after Monday, the deadline for the challenge would have been passed.
That would mean the case could have then gone before the Teaching Council as an unchallenged and unchallengeable finding of sexual abuse, he said. Mr Callanan made the application on a one side only represented basis.
Mr Callanan said their case was, when a hearing took place into the allegations, the appeal committee accorded too much weight to a previous allegation. This previous allegation was from 2011 when the teacher was accused of putting his hand on a female student at a musical event, which he denied.
Following an inquiry by his school into that claim, which also involved Tusla, there was no determination of sexual impropriety but there was a finding of inappropriate conduct, counsel said.
As a result, at the suggestion of Tusla and at the behest of the school, the teacher agreed to attend the Granada Institute for counselling.
Then, in 2015, the allegation in relation to the “call me tonight” remark was made and he was also accused of slapping the same student on the bottom. He denied he had slapped her but said he might have brushed against her.
However, Mr Callanan said, “what cooked his goose” was the 2011 allegation which the 2015 appeal committee treated as if it was a finding of sexual misconduct.
It was their case that there was pre-judgment of the matter and an entirely disproportionate weight was placed on the 2011 episode, he said. The appellate process was also entirely unsatisfactory by reference to Tusla’s own policy and procedures for dealing with sexual abuse allegations, he said.
The teacher has been suspended since the finding and remains so and the matter has had a devastating affect on him, he added.
Mr Justice Costello said she was satisfied to grant leave on the basis of the arguments advanced and affidavits and returned the matter to next week.