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Former deputy at scandal-hit school loses tribunal case a decade after dismissal

PUBLISHED: 10:01 14 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:01 14 June 2019

Copland Community School as it looked in 2010. Picture: Archant

Copland Community School as it looked in 2010. Picture: Archant

Archant

The ex-deputy headteacher of Copland Community School has had his claim for unfair dismissal struck out by a judge after almost 10 years.

Watford Tribunal Hearing Centre, where the deputy head's long-running claim was struck out in April. Picture: Google StreetviewWatford Tribunal Hearing Centre, where the deputy head's long-running claim was struck out in April. Picture: Google Streetview

Dr Richard Evans sacked for gross misconduct by Brent Council on November 3, 2009 amid a probe into an alleged £2.7million bonus scam at the school.

In 2013 he and four co-defendants were cleared of criminal charges related to the scandal, while ex-headteacher Alan Davies was convicted of six counts of false accounting.

Last year the High Court found he received more than £250,000 in over-payments between 2003 and 2009 - most of which, due to statute of limitation, it cannot order him to pay back.

It later emerged that the council had been ordered to pay Dr Evans and another cleared defendant a six-figure sum for legal costs incurred in the civil case.

Former headteacher of Copland, Sir Alan Davies, outside Southwark Crown Court in 2013. Picture: PA Images/Ryan HooperFormer headteacher of Copland, Sir Alan Davies, outside Southwark Crown Court in 2013. Picture: PA Images/Ryan Hooper

At a hearing at Watford Tribunal Centre on April 24 this year, a claim of unfair dismissal lodged by Dr Evans had lodged as far back as January 2010 was finally struck out.

Employment Judge Lewis concluded that Dr Evans's claim had "little reasonable prospect of success", adding: "I do not think there is any prospect of a tribunal calculating basic or compensatory awards… in the knowledge that Dr Evans has been found to hold over £200,000 of funds which belong to Brent.

"I can see no interest of justice in devoting further substantial judicial resource, or the public funds of Brent, to litigate these events any further."

Dr Evans's case rested in part on having not been allowed to postpone his disciplinary hearing with Brent in 2009.

Copland Community School as it looked in 2010. Picture: ArchantCopland Community School as it looked in 2010. Picture: Archant

He had been suspended that May and on October 21 received a copy of the investigation report, which turned out to be 805 pages long.

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A request for postponenement was rejected by Brent and the hearing took place less than two weeks later on November 2 without him present, which Judge Lewis accepted "did not meet the basic standard of fairness".

On all other grounds, however, it was surmised that Dr Evans's dismissal was reasonable and there was no doubt in Brent's "sincerity of belief" in what had taken place.

Watford Tribunal Hearing Centre, where the deputy head's long-running claim was struck out in April. Picture: Google StreetviewWatford Tribunal Hearing Centre, where the deputy head's long-running claim was struck out in April. Picture: Google Streetview

Speaking to this newspaper, Dr Evans said: "I was disappointed that the case was struck out.

"My case was never about compensation; if I had wanted money, I would not have been a teacher. However, it turns out that if you do not ask for money at these tribunals, then you cannot win - and if you cannot win, then you cannot go on.

"I had been through both a criminal court and a civil court trial and in both cases the courts found me innocent of any offence and awarded me costs. If it took ten years for Brent to think about this, it does seem unfair."

In 2018 the High Court had found that Dr Evans had been "line manager for the finance department" throughout his 12 years at Copland.

During that time a number of members of staff had received bonuses described as payment for extra responsibilities which the court surmised "were not real responsibilities".

The High Court judgement noted: "In light of the sheer size and frequency of payments made to him… [Dr Evans] must have appreciated at least the risk that the payments could not be justified."

However, it also found that there was "little evidence, apart from his job title, to suggest that he was closely involved with the day-to-day finances of the school".

In November Mr Davies, the ex-headteacher, and two governors were ordered to pay more than £1.9m to Brent in repayments and legal costs. In the same judgement Dr Evans was found liable to pay back £46,091, with the rest statute-barred because of the time that had elapsed since payments were made.

Copland School, in Cecil Avenue, closed in 2014. The Ark Elvin Academy reopened in its place.

A Brent Council spokesperson said: "Dismissing Dr Richard Evans in 2009 was the correct thing to do. Time has caught up with Dr Evans and we are pleased that his claim has been struck out as the Judge was clear that he had no reasonable prospect of success following the outcome of the High Court case last year."

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