A judge has described the behaviour of a BNP parliamentary candidate sacked from his job as a teacher as “scandalous”
But Mark Walker hit back last night, repeating his claim that the dismissal was a “hatchet job” and branded the leak of a report into the case as “gutter politics” aimed at scuppering his chances of victory on May 6.
A tribunal report leaked to The Northern Echo reveals that Sedgefield candidate Mr Walker would have been sacked by Sunnydale Community College, in Shildon, County Durham, last year regardless of his sickness record. He was suspended as technology teacher in 2007 amid claims he sent inappropriate emails to a 16-year-old former pupil and watched pornography on his laptop at work. No illegal content was found on Mr Walker’s laptop.
The report said: “In October 2007, the headteacher met with the child protection officer of Durham County Council and reported her concerns in relation to the claimant’s conduct and in particular the email correspondence. Durham County Council asked the NSPCC as an independent child protection agency to make inquiries.”
Following a lengthy dispute, he was dismissed because of his sickness record after he became ill following the allegations. He appealed against the decision, saying he had been victimised because of his allegiance to the BNP. His case was thrown out in January after a tribunal hearing in Newcastle, but the details were not made public.
In the report, employment judge Andrew Buchanan said Mr Walker’s illness was triggered by his own actions. He said: “If he had not acted in the way that he did towards that former pupil, he would not have had reason to be stressed and anxious and he would not have become ill.”
He said Mr Walker’s “culpable and blameworthy conduct contributed to his dismissal to the extent of 100 per cent” and that “he was the author of his own unfortunate illness”. He said that joining a demonstration staged outside the school to support him made him eligible for dismissal.
Speaking about the demonstration, held on an induction day for new pupils, Judge Buchanan said: “The claimant’s conduct during the time of his suspension was, frankly, scandalous. For a teacher to be associated with a rowdy demonstration at the school gates on a day when pupils new to the school were being inducted demonstrates a failure to observe professional standards which this tribunal finds breathtaking.”
The tribunal also said failure to agree to a health report in February 2008 amounted to unreasonable conduct.
Judge Buchanan said Mr Walker’s membership of the BNP was “of no relevance”, but said: “The tribunal does not accept that the headteacher herself was motivated by antipathy to the BNP, but recognises that that party does provoke antipathy in many people.”
Judge Buchanan added that Mr Walker’s brother, Adam, a BNP candidate for Bishop Auckland, became embroiled in the dispute. He wrote a letter to 80 Sunnydale staff saying attempts were under way to “destroy his brother’s life”.
Judge Buchanan said: “The claimant clearly was also cognisant of and supportive of the attempts of his brother and others to write to the staff and to seek to undermine the authority of the headteacher.”
Mr Walker said last night that the report was full of unfounded allegations for which dates, times and venues were missing. He rubbished claims he was involved with the former pupil and said emails described in the report as extremely worrying were innocent. He said: “All I was doing was responding out of politeness. Lots of teachers stay in touch with former pupils. I never taught her, she was never in my care. The email was to say ‘hello, how are you doing?’.”
He also said he was being persecuted for being a BNP member and said he planned to take further action against his former employer, Durham County Council. He said: “Any fair-minded person can see there is no substance to support any of those bogus allegations. It is obvious that this is a smear campaign against me and I hope that the public can see through it.”