A British National Party activist and former North-East teacher who was sacked for absenteeism has lost his case for unfair dismissal
A judgement against former Sunnydale Community College teacher Mark Walker was issued by an employment tribunal last month. Mr Walker, 39, was suspended from the school, in Shildon, County Durham, in March 2007, and claimed he was the subject of a political witch hunt. Twenty months later, he was officially sacked over his sickness record and took the school’s governing body to an employment tribunal.
The Newcastle tribunal, which was met in January, unanimously dismissed Mr Walker’s case, but has not yet published its reasons. Patrick Harrington, a spokesman for Mr Walker’s union, Solidarity, said there could be further action against his employers, Durham County Council. Mr Harrington said he would be studying the tribunal’s reasons with a view to a potential appeal, but an appeal was not the only option.
He said: “What we would point out is that Mr Walker’s ill health was largely contributed to by the employer and, in particular, the way they handled the disciplinary process. There may be a personal injury claim for the stress caused.”
Mr Harrington also cited an NSPCC report about Mr Walker, who is from Rievaulx, Spennymoor, County Durham, that was leaked to The Northern Echo. The report reveals the disciplinary inquiry uncovered a large number of emails indicating a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old former pupil. It makes it clear that no illegal content was found on Mr Walker’s school laptop or desktop computers.
It concludes: “There is sufficient evidence from the emails, and from previous matters concerning his professional conduct, to conclude that Mr Walker’s behaviour has resulted in his conduct being less than one would expect of a teacher placed in a position of trust.”
Mr Harrington said: “This report was very damaging to Mr Walker and there is a duty of confidentiality and a question of damages for the breach. The report was in the hands of the county council and the NSPCC and has to have been leaked by staff.”
Durham County Council declined to comment because of legal reasons.
* A tribunal into the case of Mr Walker’s brother, Adam Walker, also a BNP activist, has been adjourned until the end of May. The General Teaching Council, in Birmingham, is considering allegations he posted inappropriate comments on the internet. The former teacher at Houghton Kepier School, in Houghton-le-Spring, Wearside, was suspended in 2007.
The Northern Echo