A “please explain” is sent to the Teachers Council over its blanket protection of the wayward

We hesitate, on this blog, to give any credit to lefites (or greenies, bankers and tossers, among others).

But it looks like a Parliamentary select committee chaired by a leftie is on the right track, given a good steer – no doubt – by the Nats among its members.

The committee is the Regulations Review Committee and according to the Herald on Sunday (here) it is seeking explanations from the New Zealand Teachers Council.

It wants to know – as most of us do – how come it has thrown a blanket suppression order over all complaints against teachers.

The Herald on Sunday reported last month on the absolute blackout over the proceedings before the Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal, and formally complained to the Teachers Council board.

Disturbed by what he read in our story, barrister Graeme Edgeler also laid a complaint with Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee.

Committee chairman Charles Chauvel said the committee considered the Edgeler complaint this week and ruled it had substance.

In a recent case, a teacher named Andrew Loader admitted paying $240 to twice watch two teenagers have sex, one just 16 years old.

He failed to keep his name suppressed in court – but the bloody Teachers Council is keeping it under wraps for reasons that defy easy understanding.

Community Magistrate Robyn Paterson ruled the court not only had to take into consideration extreme hardship but the interests of the public, the freedom of the press, and the expectation of open justice.

The Teachers Council, however, is still suppressing his name – and his actions would never have been revealed if not for the court case.

The Herald on Sunday argues suppression should be granted only in cases where it is justified by important considerations, such as the need to protect the identity of a child victim.

The newspaper has written to the committee, arguing that this prohibition “is one of the heaviest shrouds of secrecy over any statutory disciplinary body in New Zealand”.

Edgeler’s complaint to the committee (see here) is principally concerned with rule 32 of the New Zealand Teachers Council (Conduct) Rules 2004, but also touches upon rules 31 and 33.

He reckons rule 32…

Involves an unusual or unexpected use of regulation making powers;

Contains matters more appropriate for Parliamentary enactment; and

Unduly trespasses on freedom of expression.

He recommended the committee investigate the New Zealand Teachers Council (Conduct) Rules 2004, and consider recommending to the House that it either disallow rule 32 under s 5 of the Regulations (Disallowance) Act, or that amend any or all of rules 31-33 under s 5 of the Regulations (Disallowance) Act to better provide for freedom of expression.

I do not consider that Parliament would have intended that a power to set up a Disciplinary Tribunal, and to provide rules regulating it, would incorporate a power to regulate the news media, which is the principal effect of the rule that has been adopted. This is especially so when the rule-making power is not one that is exercised by, for example, the Governor-General-in-Council, but by the New Zealand Teachers Council.

This has struck a chord, obviously.

Chauvel told the HoS the committee would refer the complaint to the Teachers Council for a formal response. When it has received this, “we can have a hearing and invite the Teachers Council.”

The committee will then decide and report to Parliament. If the complaint is upheld, the New Zealand Teachers Council (Conduct) Rules 2004 can be annulled by Parliament.

But Alf is going to have tease the information out of his mates on the committee to find out what its members think, because Chauvel would give no indication of comments by committee members in reaction to the complaint.

“We’re very careful to act fairly to all sides,” he said.

“We have simply decided there’s some basis for the complaint and we’re concerned enough that we want to hear from the Teachers Council on it.”

Watching what happens next will be fascinating.

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