The things they said
Defamation is the damage caused to a person’s reputation by the publication of false information.
In the case of TNS, significant harm was caused to the reputations of all staff members, but in particular the senior managers, Angie Gordon and Bill Colley by the false allegation that they failed to report a serious child protection matter to the regulators.
Significantly, allegations were also made against their colleagues that they did not understand or carry-out child protection procedures, and latterly by Karen Reid (CE of PKC) that there were concerns about the '“educational support” provided to pupils.
The legal action being taken by former employees of the school will be easy to defend if any evidence can be produced that such statements, or implied failings, were true.
To date, we have been unable to identify what factual evidence may be presented to justify the:
Enforcement action taken by the Care Inspectorate (and thus implied failings at the school)
Specific requirements made in the Improvement Notice (and thus implied failings at the school)
Reporting of Angie and Bill to their respective professional organisations
Private briefings between Education Scotland, the Care Inspectorate and Sir Andrew Cubie when the Head of School and Head of Care had no opportunity to respond
Conditions imposed on the school by John Swinney (and thus implied failings at the school)
Statements made by John Swinney to parents, fellow MSPs, the media
Action taken by the Board of Governors in suspending the Head of School for a ‘failing’ that could not possibly be his and which was known not to have taken place
Statements made by the Board of Governors to the Registrar of Independent Schools and to TNS parents and staff
Members of staff have 3 years from the date of those actions to sue the various organsiations and individuals above.
Legal action is expensive but is more accessible if the settlement claims are likely to be high - and if one claim is successful. This course of action has been recommended by MSPs involved in the case.
Pivotal to the whole issue will be the evidence that we are seeking from the Care Inspectorate that their actions were lawful, and any indication that they lied about or exaggerated the outcome of the police investigation in November 2018.
Despite repeated attempts to discover what evidence existed to justify Care Inspectorate actions, they have refused to provide anything at all and have blocked FOI requests. They will not be able to do this in court if they wish to defend themselves against a lawsuit.
Significant evidence for defamation claims against PKC officers has been gleaned from FOI documentation and from interviews with parents, including the suggestion that TNS staff were “unsafe to work with children” and that references from senior managers could not be trusted. PKC knew the outcome of the police investigation and cannot pin blame of false reporting by the Care Inspectorate.
Given the national interest that the closure generated, and the nature of the “intolerable pressure” placed on the Board of Governors by the regulators, there can be little doubt that real harm was done to those involved.
Those who sought to force the school to close may yet pay a very heavy price for their actions.