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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Two staff at my daughter's school interrogated my daughter

Customer Question

Two staff at my daughter's school interrogated my daughter today about a "drugs" incident that took place outside school, and made her write a statement that is potentially self-incriminating, then kept her in isolation for the entire day, depriving her of schooling, while they interrogated others. She was told that she was in serious trouble as she was a "drug dealer". The school did not contact me or my wife. Does the school have the authority to act in this way, can it give the statement to the police, and does it have any legal weight?
Her statement (she tells us) describes how she conveyed a package from girl A to girl B, supposedly containing marijuana that B had paid A for (my daughter was not involved in the payment). She had the package with her during a school sports day. My daughter tells me she later heard that it was actually tea and not marijuana, because B was pulling a fast one on A (but did not put this in her statement). Is there anything we should be concerned about and is the school acting appropriately within the law? We suspect that one staff member is fond of reporting students to the police for trivial or unsubstantiated incidents.
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 months ago.

Why did she sign it?

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
She didn't know better, she is only 15.
Customer: replied 2 months ago.
She does what teachers tell her, and would generally assume that they are looking after her interests.
Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I should add that we will try to talk to the Head first thing tomorrow to ask them what their intentions are. Is there any immediate action you recommend is to take?
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 months ago.

well, many 15 year olds do disobey orders. I'm afraid a 15 year old is an autonomous young adult.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 months ago.

There's no reason they cannot do this. Such a statement would have no bearing upon any criminal investigation. Probably the fact of an admission could be given in evidence but it wouldn't get over the legal hurdle of a confession. It would just be a piece of evidence like any other.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 months ago.

But there is no reason the school cannot conduct their own investigation and, in fairness, of this is an allegation of drug dealing then they must investigate. Can I clarify anything for you? Jo

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I was concerned about the quasi-judicial approach to the statement, without the safeguards that would come with a police interview. That does beg the question of why the school demanded that, but your response is reassuring. You are right that there is enough connection to the school in this case to justify the enquiry. I suppose we have become distrustful of the staff involved because of other experiences with them to do with real trivia (mostly make up!), and inconsistency and disproportionality in matters involving other kids. I think this drugs case comprises tittle tattle, text messages and whatever was extracted today, no drugs per se. They will presumably consult the police. Are the police likely to pursue an investigation if no drugs have actually been found?
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 months ago.

Well, that would not be admissible if this were a police interview but it is not.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 months ago.

The trouble is that schools do exercise a quasi judicial approach. They deal with discipline. They are not covered by PACE and never have been.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 months ago.

That, of course, is not to say that they are not wrong. Teachers are nothing special. Generally speaking they are not a particularly high calibre of graduate and do tend to have delusions of grandeur essentially because they are dealing with children and they can always accuse them of insubordination if they cannot win the argument on a proper basis.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 months ago.

the police won't be interested unless they can find a substance they can analyse. Otherwise they can't prove it is a prohibited substance.

Please don't worry. They are much too busy investigating claims that a person tried to kiss another one hundred years ago to do any proper crime.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Hilarious! You're absolutely right about teachers, unfortunately, and it's even worse than you suggest - my wife thinks the "welfare" person driving this (who models herself on the Gestapo) won't even have a GCSE. Many thanks for the reassurance.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 months ago.

That is probably right.

Anyway, academic qualifications these days don't mean that a person is particularly well educated and they certainly don't mean they are sensible.

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