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Court rules in favour of professional workers having right to legal representation during disciplinaries

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has won a Court of Appeal case that should pave the way for professionals, at risk of being struck off, to have legal representation during disciplinary proceedings.

 The equality commission intervened and sought a review after an unnamed teaching assistant was accused of inappropriate behaviour towards a 15 year-old, but was denied legal representation at an internal disciplinary hearing, and was subsequently dismissed.

In a unanimous decision the Court of Appeal's Lord Justice Laws agreed with the EHRC that, given the effect that having an advocate might have on the disciplinary proceedings and the high stakes involved, the teaching assistant should be afforded the opportunity to arrange legal representation should he wish.

Susie Uppal, head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission enforcement team, said: "The right to a fair trial is a cornerstone of the rule of law. It is clearly a violation of a teacher's human rights if they are denied legal representation at a hearing in which their working future is at stake."

The EHRC believes this ruling will now mean other employees, who could face similar accusations, will now be able to demand a right to legal representation.