Teachers must hold on to the requisites of their warrant throughout their career, which includes not to be found guilty of a crime which brings a punishment of one year’s imprisonment or higher. This was held in an Administrative Review Tribunal decision delivered on 9 August 2021 in Jesmond Gauci. The Tribunal was presided by Magistrate Dr Simone Grech.
In his application Gauci explained that he had a teachers’ warrant. In June 2017 he was found guilty of a crime by the Magistrates’ Court in Gozo and was awarded a 12-month prison sentence suspended for three years. In September the Council for the Teaching Profession in Malta suspended his warrant in terms of Article 30 of the Education Act. After the three years suspended sentence period passed, Gauci asked that his warrant be given back to him. This request was turned down. He is now contesting this decision since Article 30 reads:
“30 (1) A person shall not be qualified to obtain or shall not retain a warrant in terms of this Act if such person has been convicted by any court of criminal jurisdiction: for any crime liable to imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;”
When he was arraigned the charges less than a year’s imprisonment. This was changed in 2018.
The Council had further argued that according to Article 24 of the Education Act, a person would be eligible to have a teachers’ warrant if that person is a Maltese citizen, of good conduct, have legal capacity and the necessary academic qualifications. The Council took the decision not to return the warrant to Gauci, arguing that Article 24 and 30 were correlated. Gauci disagreed, since the two articles referred to two different stages in the process of granting a warrant.
Gauci asked that the Tribunal declare the Council’s decision as null and void.
The Council for the Teaching Profession in Malta replied to this application by saying that Gauci was accused of nine charges, but was found guilty of three of them. The Council referred to a judgement Vincent Carabott -v- Ministru tal-Edukazzjoni u l-Kunsill dwar il-Professjoni tal-Ghalliema f’Malta decided by the Court of Appeal on 25 March 2019, where the Court held that Article 30 refers to the maximum sentence that the law allows in the charges and not the punishment awarded by the Court.
The Council disagreed that the punishment referred to in the charges was less than a year’s imprisonment but it was more. The Council also disagreed that the Article 24 should not be read in conjunction with Article 30.
The Tribunal considered all the fact of the case and the evidence produced and held that it was in agreement with the principles laid down in a previous judgement Vincent Carabott -v- Ministru tal-Edukazzjoni decided by the Court of Appeal on 25 March 2019, where it considered that it is not important the punishment the criminal court meted out to the warranted teacher, but the punishment listed in the charges he was accused of.
Gauci was accused of a crime which carried one year’s imprisonment; however, he was also accused with an aggravating circumstances, which increased the punishment and therefore, it exceeded a year’s imprisonment. Furthermore, the charges he faced took place before the amendments that increased the punishment took place, but just the same the three charges he was found guilty of still exceeded one year’s imprisonment. Therefore, the Council could have applied Article 30 of the Education Act.
The Council told the Tribunal that it also took in consideration the nature of the crime Gauci committed, which was a sexual crime.
The law allows a person to reapply for a warrant and the Council after seeing he circumstances of the case can grant the warrant. In the case the Council declined because of the nature of the crime and stuck to its decision.
As to Article 24 of the Education Act, the Tribunal pointed out that the elements for a person to be a teacher have to continue to exist during the person’s teaching profession and not only when the person applies for the warrant.
The Tribunal then moved to reject the application.
Avv Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
The article is available on MaltaToday.