Teachers have become the first group of people in this country to be given legal anonymity when they are accused `of a criminal offence. Maths teacher Jeremy Forrest, who disappeared with 15 year-old Megan Stammers, might not have been identified if the law had been in force last month.
The new law was introduced in the Education Act 2011 and gives teachers anonymity when a complaint is made by or on behalf of a pupil at his or her school, The Independent reports. Members of the public, the media and even the police are banned from naming teachers until the person is charged, in a move to protect innocent teachers against malicious claims.
The DfE stated that: “Teachers are particularly vulnerable to false allegations of abuse, which can have a devastating effect on their careers and personal lives,” and added: “The point of charge is an important threshold as we need to strike the right balance between protecting teachers against damage from false allegations and the importance of open justice and the public interest in genuine cases.”
But Bob Satchwell from the Society of Editors condemned the new law as an attack on freedom of speech: “Although we acknowledge teachers’ fears about false allegations, the most important issue is surely to protect children. Malicious allegations by pupils are extremely rare and, alongside this, the laws of libel, contempt and confidence already restrict newspapers from reporting and publishing unsubstantiated accusations.”
Do you welcome the anonymity or is the new law an attack on freedom of speech?