We reprint below an article which appeared on the Civil Liberty website. Third Way supporters are urged to book time off work to support this protest. Third Way supports rights for all. We are Libertarians.
Adam Walker is facing charges before the General Teaching Council (GTC) of unprofessional conduct. There are two charges. One is content neutral and relates to use of a school laptop in school time for personal purposes. Adam has never contested this charge. The second, however, accuses him of using the laptop to express views “suggestive” of racial and religious intolerance.
The facts are these. Mr Walker, used to teach at Houghton Kepier Sports College at Houghton-le-Spring, near Sunderland in the North East of England. He left in 2007. The alleged incident, in which he is said to have criticised Muslims, and some asylum-seekers, is said to have happened between February and March 2007.
He was first hauled before the teaching watchdog, the GTC, in November 2008. But the hearing was adjourned after his legal representative Pat Harrington successfully argued that the presence of Judy Moorhouse, a former president of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and a “known opponent” of the British National Party, could prejudice the trial. In a five-page judgment, the original GTC committee accepted that it would be “inappropriate” for Ms Moorhouse to continue to sit in Mr Walker’s case. A new panel was appointed to hear the case.
In September 2009, the case was again adjourned. Ahead of the hearing, Superintendent Matt Ward of West Midlands Police wrote to the GTC expressing “concern about the potential public order consequences of the hearing being convened in Birmingham”.
Adam Walker expressed his views under a pseudonym (‘Corporal Fox’) on a local internet forum. At no point did he draw attention to his role as a teacher or name his workplace. It has been accepted that whilst those who ran the forum could trace the ISP address to a Sunderland Council server, it was only internally that it could be traced further. At no point was Mr Walker’s personal information regarding either his name or place of employment available to the public through the forum. There is no basis for saying that his actions brought the profession into disrepute.
Mr Walker made comments critical of asylum seekers who committed crimes whilst enjoying the protection and hospitality of our country, amongst other statements. Since these postings were made under a pseudonym and no personal email was made available to the public, there was no way to tie the statements to Mr. Walker. The only reason the public knows about them now, is because the school decided to make them public and attach Mr Walker’s name to the postings by making the complaint to the GTC.
Solidarity general secretary Patrick Harrington said Mr Walker had admitted he was wrong to use his laptop to contribute to the forum during work time just as he would have been wrong to use it to buy something on E-bay or anything else outside of his duties.
He said: “That was a contractual matter between him and his employer and when he resigned, that should have been the end of the matter.
“We feel this raises human rights issues. He has a right, like every other citizen, to freedom of expression and association. The framing of the charge introduces politics into the picture, which opens the door for someone with aspirations to score Party political points.
“The GTC has still not given a good enough reason as to why they want to overrule rights to freedom of expression for teachers with political and religious views. There is no link between Mr Walker’s views and his professional role. There is no suggestion that he has treated anyone from a different religious background with anything other than respect. Indeed one pupil from such a background was moved to write to a local paper defending her former teacher and giving personal testimony as to how he had helped her.”
Definition of freedom
Here at Civil Liberty, we are 100 per cent behind the right of teachers to hold and express political opinions, even opinions we might disagree with.
We can say no better than Hoffman LJ in R v Central Independent Television plc :-
“Freedom means the right to publish things which government and judges, however well motivated, think should not be published. It means the right to say things which ‘right-thinking people’ regard as dangerous or irresponsible. This freedom is subject only to clearly defined exceptions laid down by common law or statute…It cannot be too strongly emphasised that outside the established exceptions (or any new ones which parliament may enact in accordance with its obligations under the convention) there is no question of balancing freedom of speech against other interests. It is a trump card that always wins.”
The GTC have set three days aside to hear witnesses and further argument in this important free-speech case. Gordon Bell, the school bursar, and Tim Bateson, the IT strategy manager at the school, are due to give evidence against Adam Walker to the GTC.
That’s the 24th, 25th and 26th of May. We urge all lovers of freedom to book these days off work so that they can attend.
The theme of our protest is ‘Make a Noise for Freedom’, so pack your drums, bells and whistles!
We hope to make it even bigger and better than our last protest outside the GTC HQ in Birmingham in November 2008.
If you’re on Facebook you can register your intent to attend the protest, here.
We will be posting regular updates on preparations for the demo over the coming weeks.
You can make donations to cover Adam’s legal expenses here.