Police recruit guilty of misconduct in UK
A trainee police officer was under investigation yesterday after he was struck off the UK teaching register for life for serious misconduct with a 16-year-old schoolgirl.
Matthew McGowan, 38, a former drama teacher at Warwick Academy, quit his post at Wycombe Abbey, a private girls’ boarding school in Buckinghamshire, England, last September, after the girl’s mother made a complaint to the school in July that year.
He later returned to Bermuda and joined a Bermuda Police Service recruit class less than three weeks ago.
Acting police commissioner Paul Wright said: “The BPS conducts background checks on all applicants seeking to join the service. In this case there were no adverse traces at that time.
“However, the BPS continues to look into this matter with a view to determining if the officer has breached BPS standards of professional behaviour.”
Mr Wright added the case was investigated by police in the UK and it was found “there was no criminal case to answer”.
A judgment from the National College of Teaching and Leadership this month found that McGowan, who left Warwick Academy in 2010 and started a job at Wycombe Abbey the next year, had developed “an inappropriate relationship” with the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons and was referred to as Pupil A at the hearing.
McGowan was accused of sending the girl inappropriate e-mails and touching her inappropriately while she was a pupil at the school.
It was also claimed McGowan engaged in sexual activity with the girl, on school premises and elsewhere, after she left the school in June 2015.
McGowan denied sexual contact with the girl and claimed the allegations came after he rejected the girl’s offer of a romantic relationship which would mean him leaving his fiancee and decided to distance himself from her.
But the judgment said: “This explanation was not included in Mr McGowan’s written statement or any earlier account.
“His oral evidence was the first time that he referred to this important event which the panel found surprising.
“The panel did not find Mr McGowan’s account to be convincing.”
The report added: “The panel concluded that it is more likely than not that sexual activity between Mr McGowan and Pupil A occurred on school premises.”
The panel also found that on the balance of probabilities there were occasions when McGowan touched the girl on the buttocks while she was a pupil at the school.
McGowan admitted in a statement of agreed facts that he had in 2013 written “Happy Valentine’s Day from a secret admirer” or words to that effect in the girl’s diary and that it was inappropriate.
He also agreed that he had given the girl his personal e-mail address and that he sent e-mails of “an inappropriate nature to Pupil A on one or more occasions” some of which the panel described as “flirtatious”.
The report said: “For example, one of Mr McGowan’s messages stated: ‘As you know I live for the stalking, its always good to see the new videos however the swan dives aren’t the hottest hahha x’.”
The panel found that Mr McGowan was involved in “serious misconduct” and found him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.
The three-strong panel said that McGowan had a previous good history and was “regarded as a first-class teacher.”
But the judgment said “public interest considerations outweighed the interests of Mr McGowan” and recommended he be banned from teaching in the UK.
Dawn Dandy, acting on behalf of the UK Secretary of State for Education, backed the panel and prohibited McGowan from teaching indefinitely.
McGowan can appeal the decision to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of England and Wales.
The decision made international headlines and appeared in the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail and The Sun in the UK as well as in the New York Post.
David Horan, principal at Warwick Academy, confirmed that Mr McGowan taught at the school from September 2007 to June 2010, when he returned to Britain.
“We are shocked to hear this news out of the UK and our thoughts are with all those involved,” Mr Horan said.
“The school takes child protection very seriously with various checks in our recruitment process to proactively detect any potential prior concerns. The school also took its own initiative to introduce Scars training in 2016 for all staff.
“Further, our association with the Council of International Schools, through membership, has as one of their pillars the obligation to have the correct policies and procedures in place.”
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