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Mr Denis Haydon

Volume 931: debated on Monday 9 May 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Stoddart.]

11.7 p.m.

It would be difficult to find a case that dealt with so much unfairness and so great an injustice as that of Mr. Denis Haydon, the one-time headmaster of Court Lees Approved School in Surrey, at that time the biggest approved school in the country.

The facts are that towards the end of 1966 the headmaster of the school in- dicated his intention to retire at the end of the year. Among the applicants for the job of headmaster was a Mr. Ivor Cook, who was a junior teacher on the staff. He did not get the job. Instead, Mr. Denis Haydon was appointed, but it soon became obvious that Mr. Ivor Cook was motivated by a malicious determination to destroy the successor to the post that he desired, and he took certain action against the school which was utterly disastrous for Mr. Denis Haydon.

Less than two months after Mr. Hay-don had taken up the appointment, Mr. Ivor Cook sent an anonymous letter to a national newspaper. He signed it "Approved school master", and in that letter he alleged that beatings of a savage nature took place practically every day at this approved school in Britain. He did not, however, give sufficient information to let it be known which school it was, but an immediate furore burst upon the scene.

The Minister will readily understand how many people wrote to the newspapers. Mr. Cook himself wrote again shortly afterwards. Having made allegations, he was bent upon proving them, and he sent a newspaper some photographs purporting to be pictures of the posteriors of boys from Court Lees School who had been savagely beaten, although he did not name the school from which they came.

However, in the second letter he had given sufficient background information for the Home Office, under whose charge this school came, to appreciate that it was Court Lees. As soon as that was known, the Home Secretary of the day instituted an inquiry.

I criticise the inquiry on many grounds. It was held in private in such a way as to beget an injustice which has continued ever since. Denis Haydon was given no information about the allegations against him. He was not allowed even to be present to hear the allegations. Had he been in open court, he would have known the charges being levelled against him. He could have called witnesses in his own behalf. However, because of the way the inquiry was set up, he was not allowed to be present.

That was most regrettable, because many of the staff at the school had detailed and first-hand knowledge of what had occurred at the school. However, they were not called.

Later, but not at that time, the photographic evidence which I have mentioned was strongly questioned by experts. Had the inquiry been held in open court, that photographic evidence would have come under far more careful scrutiny than it did at the inquiry.

The report of the inquiry contained many statements which were strongly refuted. One instance of what I regard as dreadful unfairness was that it was reported that canes ⅛mm thicker than those permitted were found to be used by Mr. Haydon. Yet when Mr. Haydon had assumed the office of headmaster of Court Lees School he had taken over a case of canes. Many Home Office inspectors had attended the school and seen the canes. It was surely not for Mr. Haydon to measure the canes at the time of his appointment and discover that they were slightly thicker than was permitted by the Home Office.

In all, what the inquiry discovered was that caning had taken place at Court Lees School. The question of corporal punishment has bedevilled this case, because many people who are root and branch against the whole principle of corporal punishment have been blinkered in their scrutiny of what happened. The Home Office permitted caning to take place at approved schools. So caning was not against the rules.

However, the inquiry issued its report. Within days, the school was closed. All the boys were sent home, although many of them were only half-way through their courses. The staff were dismissed. An embargo was placed upon Denis Haydon from which he has never recovered. Ordinarily a teacher who is dismissed has certain rights under the rules of the National Union of Teachers, which are accepted and supported by the Government. Indeed, the rules are agreed to universally. It is fully understood that a teacher who is dismissed has a right to a tenure hearing.

Denis Haydon is the only teacher ever to be denied this right. I do not doubt that today he could in such circumstances claim for unjust dismissal and go before an industrial tribunal. But such bodies did not then exist and Mr. Haydon did not have that chance.

At the inquiry, counsel for the Home Office gave an express undertaking. He said that no one was in the dock and that no disciplinary consequences would follow without a further investigation. He said that an opportunity to present a defence would be given. There were disciplinary consequences, for Denis Haydon lost his job. There was no further investigation, and no opportunity to present a defence was given. There was merely this stream of broken promises.

I will state categorically that Denis Haydon has many supporters. All of those who knew the details of the case claimed then, and still claim, that he has been most unjustly treated. All the staff save one, and many important bodies and persons, supported then, and still support, the case for a public inquiry. These supporters include The Times, the High Sheriff of Surrey, the Bishop of Woolwich, and the National Union of Teachers. Sir John Vaughan-Morgan, as he then was, who was Denis Haydon's Member of Parliament at that time and the Member in whose constituency Court Lees was situated, joined, and still joins, the queue of people who ask for a public inquiry.

The parents of the boys at Court Lees—and even the boys themselves—have demanded, but have never obtained, a public inquiry into this case. There have been debates in the House of Lords and in the Commons, as well as many Parliamentary Questions. I quote from what Mr. Quintin Hogg—as he then was—said in the House:
"The meanest criminal in the country"
and Denis Haydon was not that—
"is entitled to a fair trial. The fundamental question in giving anybody a fair trial is whether one has listened to both sides of the case."—[Official Report, 16th November 1967; Vol. 754, c. 694.]
That was what Mr. Hogg said. Mr. Haydon has never had a fair trial.

If Haydon could have afforded it, perhaps he would even have sued the Home Secretary, but how could he afford it when he had just lost his job and his prospects, yet his family commitments had to be met? He was in a difficult position because he had taken on a highly paid job and planned his life on that assumption.

The House has a solemn duty to ensure that its servants are not guilty of sustaining an injustice that they have inflicted on a subject too poor to seek reparation in the courts.

Mr. Haydon was allowed an interview with a civil servant and, eventually, even with the Minister, but he was never likely to get anywhere with them since one served the other and the latter was a Minister who had supported the injustice—hardly an impartial duo!

The case then went to the Parliamentary Commissioner, who found:
"I find that there was an element of maladministration in the procedure followed by the Home Office in that it breached what I have called fair employment practice and so"
at the time
"caused injustice to Mr. Haydon."
However, because the Home Office sent Mr. Haydon on a course and subsequently removed the embargo on his employment as a headmaster, the Ombudsman said "a remedy was provided". That was no remedy. The embargo might have been removed but it was a ghost removal, because Mr. Haydon has applied for 35 posts as a head and deputy head and in child care but the only post that he has ever been able to obtain is that of warden in an adult probation hostel in my constituency. He has made, and is making, an excellent job of that and has even been invited to lecture in the United States—so wide has his fame gone about the excellence of his work.

However, Mr. Haydon has suffered a catastrophic drop in salary because of the result of the inquiry. He has had severe financial difficulties and he has had to withdraw his superannuation contributions—with a cruel effect on his pension, which is not so far away now. I am concerned about this, but Mr. Haydon is concerned about clearing his name.

Mr. Gibbens headed the inquiry to which I have made reference. He said of Haydon two years later:
"He was not a man against whom one could make any criticism of improper conduct."
The course of the inquiry would have been different had it been known at the time that Ivor Cook was a dangerous character. Indeed, first—and I think that this information will be news to the Minister—Mr. Cook had been dismissed from his former school for threatening to shoot the headmaster. At the school to which he went after Court Lees—the job that the Home Office obtained for him—he threatened to murder the head. While at the same school he took a boy to the police claiming that the head had assaulted the child. It is a good thing, bearing in mind the history that we know, that the boy broke down under examination and admitted that the allegations were untrue and that Mr. Cook had put him up to it.

Finally, I have to tell the House that Mr. Cook was in receipt of an Army pension for psycho-neurosis at the time he held the Court Lees job and should never have been near normal boys, let alone disturbed boys. This is the man who was listened to and believed. This is the man who destroyed Denis Haydon.

Ten long years have passed since all this happened. The National Union of Teachers has asked time and again that the Minister should see a deputation that could try to set the matter right. All I am asking is that in the light of the facts that I have given—and to which I am sure the Minister has listened carefully—the Secretary of State should see a deputation on Denis Haydon's behalf, because I can assure him that it is still not too late to make reparation and grant justice.

11.21 p.m.

I am very glad at the third attempt to have the opportunity now to reply to this much-delayed debate. It came close to being regarded as the "nearly" debate, for this is its third appearance on the Order Paper. On both previous occasions it was thwarted by the votes of the Opposition. I voted for us to have the debate on both occasions and I well appreciate that it must have been with mixed feelings that the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) voted on each occasion for the House to adjourn before her debate could take place. Now at last we are at one.

I am very much aware of the sustained interest the hon. Lady has had in Mr. Haydon and his problem. No one could have argued the case with more concern or more conscientiously. She discussed it with Home Office Ministers as long ago as 1971, under the previous Government. Mr. Haydon has continued to pursue his complaints through various channels. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently considered representations on behalf of Mr. Haydon. My right hon. Friend decided that he should take no further action. I sympathise with the hon. Lady's support for Mr. Haydon and I know how genuinely concerned she is to help. We have come to the conclusion, however, as did our predecessors in the previous Government, that there is no case for intervention by Ministers.

I should perhaps explain that action arising from the Court Lees hearing was dealt with by the Home Office until 1st January 1971. At that date, in accordance with the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, the matters concerning children were transferred to my Department. This includes responsibility for any questions following the Court Lees inquiry.

Mr. Haydon was, as the hon. Lady has said, appointed in January 1967 headmaster at Court Lees School, an approved school for boys aged 13–15 and run by a voluntary body under the aegis of the Home Office. As a result of letters from an anonymous member of staff to daily newspapers in March, April and May of that year, making serious allegations about approved schools generally and alleging excessive caning in the writer's own approved school, it became apparent that the school was the Court Lees Approved School.

In the light of the nature of the allegations and the manner in which they had been made, the Home Office appointed Mr. Brian Gibbens, Q.C., now Judge Gibbens, to hold an inquiry. The report was submitted to the Home Secretary in July 1967 and published in August of that year as Command 3367. Mr. Gibbens found that excessively severe punishment had been inflicted on a number of boys and that there had been several breaches of the approved school rules relating to punishment. Mr. Haydon had not conformed with the rules. In fact, during his headmastership canes of a type not authorised by the Secretary of State were habitually used for corporal punishment. He frequently caned boys after pulling their shirts from their trousers. In four instances he had caned boys with excessive severity. Moreover, he and other members of the staff had on many occasions totally failed to record corporal punishment in the punishment book.

After discussion with the managers of Court Lees, the then Home Secretary gave notice of his intention to withdraw the school's certificate of approval, which took effect in February 1968. All members of staff, including Mr. Haydon, were given six months' notice. Arrangements were made for Surrey County Council to open a new school in the same premises, to which most of the existing staff were appointed.

Under the Approved School Rules 1933, no appointments of the headmaster of an approved school could be made without the approval of the Home Secretary. In view of the result of the inquiry, it was decided to ban both Mr. Haydon and his deputy, Mr. Dracon, from appointments as headmaster, but the decision did not preclude either from employment at a lower level than headmaster. Whether Mr. Haydon could be employed in other types of school was a matter for the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who was currently giving consideration to Mr. Haydon's suitability for continued employment as a teacher. The Department of Education and Science informed Mr. Haydon in December 1967 that, in the light of all that had happened, it had decided not to declare him unsuitable for employment as a teacher but to give him a grave warning as to his future conduct.

As a result of further representations, Mr. Haydon was accorded a lengthy interview with the Deputy Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office and was also seen personally by the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary, however, decided to confirm his conclusion that he would not approve Mr. Haydon's appointment as headmaster of any approved school. Two years later, in 1969, following further action by the National Union of Teachers and the examination of evidence supplied by the London University Institute of Education and officials of the Home Office about Mr. Haydon's attitude, the embargo was removed with effect from 29th July 1969. In spite of a number of applications for other posts as headmaster, Mr. Haydon's efforts have remained unsuccessful.

I understand that the Home Office from the beginning took action to assist Mr. Haydon. It accepted the responsibility of assisting the staff of Court Lees to obtain other employment and, in Mr. Haydon's case, recognised the need to help him to re-establish himself professionally. Since at the end of his period of notice in February 1968 he had not obtained an alternative post, his notice was extended until 30th April. As he was then still unemployed, the Home Office arranged that he should attend a one-year course at the London University Institute of Education to improve his professional qualifications. He subsequently obtained a diploma in the education of maladjusted children. During his period at the Institute of Education, from 1st May 1968 to 31st August 1969, he had the salary of a deputy headmaster. At the end of this period he was still unable to find another headmaster's post and was appointed temporarily as a research officer at an ap- proved school at a slightly higher salary than that of a deputy headmaster.

After removal of the embargo in 1969, Mr. Haydon applied for a number of posts as headmaster of approved schools. He was short-listed for one such post, but was not appointed. In February 1970, he took up post as the warden—principal—of Eliot House Probation Hostel in Birmingham at a considerably reduced salary. It must, however, be emphasised that there was no necessity for him to have taken such a lowly-paid post. He could have applied for positions as a teacher or deputy head at an approved school with a considerably higher salary but, so far as is known, he did not do so. On one occasion he was offered by the Home Office a job as a temporary deputy headmaster, but refused on the grounds that he should rightfully be a headmaster and that it would be wrong for him to accept the offer. He was also offered a post as a basic grade teacher on remedial work in an Inner London Education Authority comprehensive school, but refused that offer also. All this must be taken fully into account in any consideration of Mr. Haydon's present post and salary.

At the time of his appointment as a warden, against the advice given him by his unions, he also withdrew his pension contributions rather than transfer them to the Local Government Superannuation Scheme. This, again, has contributed to his present difficulties.

During 1971 the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration considered Mr. Haydon's case. The hon. Lady has referred to this. The complaint was that he had suffered injustice on two grounds: first, because the Home Office's decision to close the school and to disbar him from employment as a headmaster of any approved school constituted disciplinary action taken against him without a further inquiry, which he claimed was promised by the Treasury Solicitor during the course of the Gibbens inquiry and without his being given any other opportunity to make representations; and, secondly, on the ground that the effect of his disbarment had been to prevent him from obtaining other employment as a headmaster in an approved school and that, as a result, he had been obliged to take a post at a considerably lower salary outside the approved school service.

The Commissioner found, on the first of these grounds, that an injustice had been done to Mr. Haydon but that suitable remedial action had been taken by the Home Office as arrangements were made for Mr. Haydon's representations to be heard and considered before his employment was terminated and the embargo came into force. On the second, the Commissioner found that it was Mr. Haydon's actions, not those of the Home Office, which had resulted in his financial difficulties.

Since then, as I have said, both Mr. Haydon's union and the hon. Lady have made representations to successive Ministers. I know that the hon. Lady's concern is with Mr. Haydon's earnings and his loss of superannuation. His present earnings are said to be £4,269 as against the £7,500 he would have earned had he remained a headmaster. There is also the loss he has suffered as a result of the non-transference of his pension contributions.

I must re-emphasise, however, that the Government went a long way to help Mr. Haydon. He received his full salary until 30th April 1968 and was paid as a deputy headmaster until August 1969. He was then given a special job at a higher salary until 31st January 1970. His action in taking a post outside the approved school field, at a much reduced salary, was of his own choosing. He also acted against advice in withdrawing his pension contributions. The Parliamentary Commission for Administration concluded that it was his own actions rather than those of the Home Office which resulted in Mr. Haydon's present financial position.

I must point out again—I made the point in my speech—that this man was forced to do that because he had no other way to get the money which he had to find to meet commitments which he had made on the understanding that he had a job with a higher salary. He did not wish to withdraw the contributions. He had no alternative.

I have referred already to the other possibilities which might be open to Mr. Haydon. I shall ensure that everything said by the hon. Lady tonight is fully and seriously considered.

I was referring to the report of the Parliamentary Commission for Administration. The Commissioner accepted that the Home Office could not be held responsible for the superannuation position, and he saw no case for financial compensation.

No new evidence has come to light which would lead Ministers to alter their original decision to accept the findings of the PCA. Nevertheless, as the hon. Lady has been in touch with me during the evening to request that a deputation be received, I shall see to it that the request is carefully considered.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-four minutes to Twelve o'clock.