Information was brought to BACP's attention which was sufficient to refer for consideration under Article 12.6 of the Memorandum & Articles of Association. The information included allegations by the Teaching Agency as part of their proceedings and the decision of the Professional Conduct Panel and the Secretary of State.
The summary of the information, together with the allegations as notified to Mr Qureshi by BACP was as follows:
Mr Qureshi was employed as a teacher at [ . . . ] between 2009 and 2011. It was alleged by the Teaching Agency that Mr Qureshi was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct, in that he:
1. Acted in an inappropriate manner towards pupils by:
a) Accepting pupils as friends on the social networking site ‘Facebook';
b) Making inappropriate comments to pupil A;
c) Engaging in inappropriate conversations with pupils;
d) Engaging in inappropriate physical contact with pupil A;
e) Engaging in inappropriate physical contact with pupil C;
f) Making inappropriate comments during a Year 8 Maths lesson;
g) Showing an inappropriate video to a Year 8 class.
2. Accessed inappropriate websites on the school computer during school time.
Mr Qureshi did not admit to the allegations or accept that his conduct amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.
In October 2009, after allegedly discovering that Mr Qureshi had over 200 current and past pupils as friends on Facebook, Mr Qureshi was interviewed and told that this was inappropriate and asked to remove these pupils from his Facebook site. In January 2010, Mr Qureshi allegedly notified Human Resources that he had complied with their request.
In May 2010, following a complaint allegedly made against Mr Qureshi by a pupil's mother, a strategy meeting was convened to discuss those concerns. On 17 May 2010, a decision was allegedly made to suspend Mr Qureshi pending the outcome of an internal disciplinary investigation, after it was discovered that pupils at the school remained on his Facebook page.
Mr Qureshi allegedly attended a disciplinary hearing on 22 October 2010, where he was issued with a final written warning. Mr Qureshi returned to work on 15 November 2010 following his suspension and was further investigated after concerns were raised regarding two allegedly inappropriate videos he had viewed in school, one of which was shown to the pupils. Mr Qureshi was allegedly given a final written warning and a strategy meeting took place on 17 January 2011.
Mr Qureshi allegedly entered into a compromise agreement with the school before his employment with them was terminated.
Mr Qureshi allegedly did not attend the hearing and in relation to the allegations, the Panel made the following findings:
1. Acted in an inappropriate manner towards pupils by:
a) Accepting pupils as "friends" on social networking site Facebook:
The Panel found this allegation proved as there was no challenge to the fact that Mr Qureshi did have pupils as friends on his Facebook site. The Panel further found that Mr Qureshi acted in an inappropriate manner as, amongst reasons, he was disclosing to pupils personal aspects of his life which did not relate to his professional life, and he should have recognised that allowing pupils as friends on Facebook had the potential to cross boundaries.
b) Making inappropriate comments to pupil A:
The Panel noted that Mr Qureshi had acknowledged in his written evidence that Mr Qureshi said "Hi Darling" to pupils all the time and explained that he did this to put pupils at ease and as a means to building relationships. The Panel found that the comments Mr Qureshi made were inappropriate and that by saying them, he behaved in an inappropriate manner to pupil A. Furthermore, there was allegedly evidence that the former head teacher had previously warned Mr Qureshi not to engage in conversations with pupils other than those of a professional nature.
c) Engaging in inappropriate conversations with pupils:
Mr Qureshi did not deny discussing his personal relationships with pupils. The Panel therefore found that this allegation was proven and that it was inappropriate of Mr Qureshi to make these disclosures and that by doing so, he acted in an inappropriate manner towards pupils and did not maintain boundaries.
d) Engaging in inappropriate physical contact with pupil A
It was alleged that Mr Qureshi had stroked a pupil on the arm and said "hello darling", tickled her on her waist from behind when this pupil was behind the
classroom door and another pupil had locked her inside with him. The Panel accepted the evidence of pupil A and this allegation was therefore found proven.
e) Engaging in inappropriate physical contact with pupil C.
It was alleged that Mr Qureshi slapped people with a ruler and that in particular he did that to this student a couple of times and every two weeks. Mr Qureshi allegedly did not deny slapping pupil C with a ruler. The Panel found this allegation proven and that Mr Qureshi's conduct was inappropriate.
f) Making inappropriate comments during a Year 8 Maths lesson
Mr Qureshi allegedly showed a video in class by Gyptian called "Hold You" to Year 8 pupils, which was allegedly a video showing male and female dancers with body language that was sexual. It was further alleged that in reference to an icon flickering on screen Mr Qureshi said to a pupil: "I wish it was you flashing there". Mr Qureshi allegedly did not deny either incident, the Panel found that the nature of the video suggested that suggestive remarks could have been made by Mr Qureshi to the pupils. The Panel found that Mr Qureshi's comment was inappropriate and this allegation was upheld.
2. Accessed inappropriate websites on the school computer, during school time.
The Panel concluded that if the material Mr Qureshi was alleged to have downloaded was inappropriate to be shown by a Maths teacher in the exercise of their professional duties, it was fair to conclude on the balance of probabilities that the website where the material came from was inappropriate. The Panel found that Mr Qureshi did access inappropriate videos during school time and that this was inappropriate.
The Panel found that Mr Qureshi had breached professional boundaries with regard to his relationships with pupils in his care, time and time again. The Panel therefore found Mr Qureshi guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and the Secretary of State accepted the Panel's recommendation and imposed upon Mr Qureshi a Prohibition Order for a period of three years.
In addition, it is alleged that Mr Qureshi was a student counsellor on a placement from July 2012 and failed to notify his placement of the outcome of the
Teaching Agency's investigation until 13 March 2013, when the article about him in the Bolton Evening News had been published and his supervisor had terminated their contract. As a result Mr Qureshi's placement has now allegedly been terminated.
Further, Mr Qureshi failed to disclose to BACP in his application for membership dated 4 August 2012, that he had previously been suspended, received written warnings and had been the subject of investigations.
The nature of the information raised questions about the suitability of Mr Qureshi's continued membership of this Association and raised concerns about
the following in particular:
- Mr Qureshi completed an application form for BACP membership stating that the information contained within his application was true to the best of his knowledge and belief but he did not disclose that he had previously been suspended, received written warnings and was the subject of an investigation;
- Mr Qureshi failed to notify BACP that his placement had been withdrawn;
- Mr Qureshi's alleged actions have brought, or may yet bring, not only this Association, but also the reputations of counselling/psychotherapy into
- Mr Qureshi's alleged behaviour is incompatible with the values and principles of the Ethical Framework, to which all members of BACP subscribe.
Article 12.6 Panel Decision
The member was invited to send in a written response, and made a response.
The Article 12.6 Panel decided to implement Article 12.6 of the Memorandum and Articles of Association and withdraw BACP membership from Mr Qureshi to take effect 28 days from notification of this decision. The reasons for its decision are as follows:
- The Panel noted the comments made by the General Teaching Council in its findings, which stated that Mr Qureshi had breached professional boundaries in respect of his relationships with pupils in his care, time and time again. Further, the Panel noted that prior to the events which led to the Professional Conduct Hearing, Mr Qureshi received a warning and was suspended on two separate occasions, which indicated to the Panel that Mr Qureshi had failed to take heed of the warnings he had been given.
- The Panel took note of the fact that Mr Qureshi did not attend the Teaching Agency's Professional Conduct Panel hearing and failed, initially, to respond to BACP's letter dated 24 May 2013 setting out the allegations against him. Further, Mr Qureshi in his response stated that he had dealt with this matter by burying it and trying to move on with his life and that when he disclosed [ . . . ] to BACP, he did not want to deal with the other issues as he found it unbearable. The Panel found that Mr Qureshi's failure to disclose to BACP the disciplinary investigations and his suspensions was a fundamental breach of the trust between Mr Qureshi and BACP. Furthermore, the Panel noted that Mr Qureshi failed to disclose the findings of the Professional Conduct Panel to his placement and it was only made aware of the hearing through an online newspaper article.
- Mr Qureshi in his response disclosed that he had suffered with depression as a result of this matter but did not demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Panel, his ability to maintain his fitness to practise at a level which enables him to provide an effective service.
- The Panel noted the parallel between the boundary transgressions which were upheld by the Professional Conduct Panel in relation to Mr Qureshi's work with young children and the boundaries which are required in relation to his counselling work with vulnerable adults. Mr Qureshi failed to demonstrate sufficient insight into his actions to evidence that he was now aware of the importance of maintaining boundaries.
- The Panel agreed that on the basis of the information available to it, Mr Qureshi's actions had brought the reputations of BACP and the reputations of counselling and psychotherapy into disrepute and his actions were incompatible with the actions of a member of BACP.
Article 12.6 Appeal Panel Decision
Mr Qureshi appealed against the Article 12.6 Panel's decision to invoke Article 12.6 believing that it was unjust and unreasonable in all the circumstances to implement Article 12.6.
The Appeal Panel, in addition to the information considered by the Article 12.6 Panel was provided with Mr Qureshi's Appeal against the decision to withdraw membership, as well as further supporting information received from Mr Qureshi. All of the preceding information was carefully considered by the Appeal Panel.
It was the duty of the Article 12.6 Appeal Panel to decide whether the decision of the Article 12.6 Panel to implement Article 12.6 was just and reasonable in all the circumstances and then to decide whether an appeal should be allowed or denied. In particular it had to consider the fact that the Appellant, Mr Qureshi, did not attend the Appeal Hearing and decide how to proceed in the light of paragraph 18 of Article 12.6 of the Memorandum and Articles of Association which provides that:
The refusal or failure of the appellant to attend the appeal hearing without good and/or sufficient reason and without good and/or sufficient notice in the
circumstances will be notified to the chair of the appeal panel. What constitutes good and/or sufficient reason and/or notice shall be solely at the discretion of the chair of the appeal panel, who may take advice on the matter from the Head of Professional Conduct. The appeal panel will decide what course of action to take in these circumstances, ie either continue in the absence of the appellant, defer the hearing to another date, or terminate the proceedings.
The Panel considered the facts as known to it at the time of the Appeal Hearing and in arriving at a decision the Chair took the following facts into account:
- The Appeal was lodged on 8 October 2013. On 17 October 2013, the Appellant submitted a letter of statement by email together with other documents that he wished the Panel to consider and asked for information about where the hearing would take place, and the procedures involved, as he would like to have the opportunity to defend himself.
- The Appellant submitted by email on 22 October 2013, a further letter for the Panel to consider and reiterated that he would like to be present at the hearing.
- On 8 November 2013, the Appellant was notified by BACP that a date had been fixed for his Appeal Hearing on 17 February 2014, and he was further advised of the deadline to provide additional evidence and asked to confirm his attendance at the Appeal Hearing, by completing and returning the attendance slip, which he did not do.
- On 17 January 2014, BACP sent the Appellant a further letter reminding him of the date of the appeal hearing and asking him to return the attendance slip to confirm his attendance, which again he did not do.
- BACP wrote again to the Appellant on 4 February 2014 reminding him of the previous letters of 8 November and 17 January and giving him a deadline to confirm whether or not he would be attending the Appeal Hearing. The Appellant was also advised of the consequences of his non -attendance as is set out in paragraph 18 of Article 12.6. This letter was sent by Special Delivery and Royal Mail's Track and Trace service for Special Delivery confirmed that the letter of 4 February 2014 was delivered to the Appellant and signed for on 6 February 2014.
- On 14 February 2014, two days before the date fixed for the Appeal hearing, the Appellant telephoned BACP and spoke to [ . . . ]. He stated that he was feeling depressed, no longer could continue with his course at university and did not feel that the outcome of the Appeal would be positive. He was asked if he wanted to withdraw his Appeal or whether he would be prepared to attend at an alternative date. The Appellant stated that he would probably want to withdraw the appeal. He further stated that he was unemployed and that financially he would not be able to afford to attend the hearing in any event.
- The Appellant agreed to send an email confirming his decision and did so at 15:35 stating that he was suffering from depression, was unemployed and did not have the financial resources to meet travel costs, no longer felt that his appeal would be successful and did not wish to put himself through going ahead with the appeals procedure.
- The Appeal Panel noted that the Appellant had chosen not to attend the previous Panel set up to consider the issues in this case, namely the Teaching Agency's Professional Conduct Panel. The Panel further noted that in deciding not to attend this Appeal Hearing, the Appellant was repeating a pattern of avoidance in dealing with difficult issues, leaving decisions to be made by others in his absence.
In all the circumstances and having considered the issues, and pursuant to the provisions of Article 12.6, the Chair of the Panel decided as follows:
Ø The Chair of the Appeal Panel decided to terminate the proceedings under the provisions of paragraph 18 of the Memorandum and Articles of Association, the Appellant having failed to attend the hearing without good and/or sufficient notice or reason.
Ø The Appeal Panel decided not to defer the Appeal Hearing to another date because the Appellant had indicated that he would not attend, as he did not think the outcome would be positive.
Ø The Appeal Panel considered that it would have been unrealistic to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Appellant, who needed to give evidence to the Appeal Panel first hand.
The Appeal process is therefore terminated and the decision of the original Article 12.6 Panel stands and consequently, Mr Qureshi's membership of BACP is withdrawn with immediate effect.
Any future re-application for membership will be considered under Article 12.3 of the Memorandum & Articles of the Association.