Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

No to ‘bugging’ evidence

If even the England football team can be bugged, it should be no surprise that less glamorous groups are.

In an internal disability hearing about an employee who was suffering from depression, a mobile phone with a recording feature was left in the meeting room when the employer and his advisers were left alone to discuss what they should do. The consequent recording was typed up and offered in evidence to an employment tribunal in Willamson v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester.

The tribunal refused to receive it. The appeal tribunal rejected an appeal against their decision.

The public interest was that people making such decisions should be able to discuss frankly and freely. It might be that one person would take on the role of devil's advocate, which might be open to misunderstanding in a recording. The only kind of situation where it might be possible to take it into account would be where the recording revealed gross and unmistakeable discrimination.

Recordings have, on occasion, been made of the proceedings of appeals panels and governors' review committees. The same principles should hold. While recordings of the proceedings that are in public with all parties present may be made and presented in evidence, material clandestinely collected from the private discussions of a panel should not. 

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