Saturday, 16 April 2011

Another visit from the police

I had a second visit from the police last Sunday. It appears that there had been a further complaint about harassment from Mrs Gumley Mason.

I discussed a few points with the detective constable who visited:
  • I pointed out that I have not been asked by anybody, not the school, not Mrs Gumley Mason, not even the police on their previous visit, to delete any comments that had already been published at the time of the first police visit.
  • I asked whether he was requiring me to take down any existing comments, or was indicating that I would be committing an offence if I did not. He made it clear that he was not saying that leaving the old comments up was an offence.
  • I pointed out that there had been no attempt by Mrs Gumley Mason, the school, the trustees, governors or their solicitors to contact me to complain about any aspect of the blog. Their first action had been to go to the police.
  • I asked if the police had asked Mrs Gumley Mason whether she had made any attempt to contact me to ask me to stop whatever was supposedly concerning her. It appears that the police had not asked that question.
  • At least some of the comments specifically mentioned in the prevention of harassment letter are points which have been supported by a finding of the Independent Schools Inspectorate, and as such are entirely justifiable as fair comment on matters of fact.
  • Mrs Gumley Mason is a headteacher. The comments about which she was complaining are no worse than one might hear in any playground in the country. For her to feel harassed by them is not credible.
  • Before she became a headteacher, she was a senior journalist and broadcaster, two professions notorious behind the scenes for for the use of language far worse than anything she is complaining of. Moreover in her present and previous careers she is a public figure. For her to be alarmed or distressed about the comments on the blog is not credible.
  • There is strong evidence that Mrs Gumley Mason has made anonymous comments to the blog. She is hardly in a position to complain of harassment from a blog to which she herself has contributed.
  • I have already written a letter to the chairman of Trustees (and he has received it by recorded delivery) in which I have stated that I will not publish any more name-calling comments, and that if Mrs Gumley Mason or the school is concerned about any other comments, they are requested to contact me without delay. I said that I would unhesitatingly remove any new comment that was genuinely abusive.
  • In the light of all this, there is reason to think that both the original complaint and its repetition are motivated by Mrs Gumley Mason's private agenda, and that in essence the police are being used by her to try and intimidate me.

I provided a copy of my letter to Mr. Murphy as evidence of my position. By the time the policeman left, he seemed almost apologetic at having called. He said that he had no wish for the police to get involved in a private dispute between Mrs Gumley Mason and me, and he promised that the police would have a further word with her on the subject.

The fact is that the offence of harassment only exists when the alleged perpetrator engages in a course of action which he either knows or should reasonably have known would cause alarm and distress.

Until the police visited the first time, I could not reasonably have known, since there was no reason to think the comments could plausibly have caused alarm and distress, and after the first police visit I wrote to the chairman of trustees stating that no further name-calling comments would be published and inviting Mrs Gumley Mason or the school to contact me if they have any further concerns. Since it is the name-calling specifically which was the subject of the complaint, and not any other aspect of the blog, there is no justification for any further complaint.

I also mentioned in passing that I had made a formal written complaint to the Metropolitan Police about one of the officers who had visited the first time. She had refused to identify herself when I requested her name and number, saying instead that her name was on the Prevention of Harassment letter. However, when I took a detailed look at the letter after she had gone, her name and rank were an illegible scrawl, and her warrant number, home station and contact telephone number were absent, even though the letter clearly indicated that all should be stated. The policeman made no comment.


  1. There's mischief afoot!

  2. This is outrageous the haressment you are receiving, why has nothing be done, the school is becoming the laughing stock of Ealing.
    In the real world a CEO would be asked to reisgn for this type of unprofessional behavior.

  3. Whatever next?

  4. The woman is not fit to be running a school, it's a joke that she has been allowed to continue. She should go now and let the school try and recover from this farce that she herself has created. I am confident the school's reputation will not suffer as long as she goes promptly.

  5. It's a shame St.Augustine's haven't acted with dignity like St.Benedict's have done, and no I am not a St.Benedict parent!

  6. 22:25
    I don't have all that high an opinion of the dignity of St Benedict's either. For instance, trying to pass off a half-day visit to the Abbey as an "independent review" demonstrating that all is well with the school was hardly a dignified act.

  7. I am embarassed to be associated with the school and the childish way in which it is conducting itself.

  8. The Headmistress tried to injunct the ISI Report, tried to delay its publication, tried to hide the reports actual meaning from parents, tried to intimidate staff and now we hear she is trying to silence this blog.
    Nobody goes to such lengths unless there is something to hide.
    So what is the actual truth re the CRB issues, the 2 teachers who left and most importantly the real truth about Father Gregory Chillman?

  9. Whether your daughters love the school or not, is not the issue. We have a fair idea about 'favourites' nepotism and the bullying that goes on. I know a number of us found it very strange when Mr Strahan resigned as deputy head, that he was promptly replaced by 3 deputies ( not sharing his wages between them I bet). GM is godmother to one of the deputies children, as is her daughter.Her husband works at the school, her son occasionally works at the school, some employees, old girls and their offspring enjoy the atmosphere that nepotism brings with it. These I suspect are the ones writing in her support. Some would have difficulty gaining employment else where and so are desperately fighting for their own jobs! They have no interest whatsoever in our children nor indeed in their safety. However there are some teachers, I know in the senior school who do have integrity, they are in a very difficult position and I applaud them for speaking out. The parents have every right to question the motives of 'failure to disclose'. Mr West has highlighted problems much greater than we ever imagined. It doesn't bear thinking about - what if something were to happen to one of our daughters, purely because GM wanted the school rated higher in the league tables, isn't that what it was really about! It beggars belief!! I am totally outraged that she has called the police to accuse him of harassment - he is only telling the truth, wake up, he has nothing to gain. SHE should be questioned by the Police for misappropriation of funds, and perjury, not to mention wasting their time - using them to gag him!! no wonder she befriends parents in the legal profession! Child protection is paramount. St Augustine's must employ rigorous transparent safe guarding policies & procedures and put them in place immediately. Our children must be protected! Shameful behaviour GumleyMason, you have no dignity left. Well done Mr West and Thank you.

  10. 14.58
    I couldn't agree more with everything you say, all that is important is the schools positioning in the league tables, no compassion for children who are less able, mind you they are in the minority as she tests all girls stringently for learning difficulties before being offered a place. There is no support offered fo these girls.
    Also you must remember some of the staff actually live on school premises, they are highly unlikely to complain as they would not only lose thier jobs but thier homes to.

  11. ´harassment´- can we all describe anything we don´t like as harassment?

    The last time I saw Father Stan was when I was accompanying my father to the Abbey to discuss funeral arrangements for my mother who had died after a long degenerative illness.

    On coming across Father Stan, he instantly gave me a filthy look and then refused to acknowledge me in anyway, blanking me like I was not there though happily chatting to my father. Other monks who we bumped into were perfectly social and chatty to me, offering their condolences e.t.c . I did not really pay any attention to it at the time but at a later date I was to feel a slight surge of anger.

    I may be gay but I have never had any run-ins with the authorities or been arrested or put on trial or engaged in anything non consensual with another person in my life, who was Father Stan, a priest, to give me a filthy look when I am vulnerable with my emotional defenses down, could I describe that as a form of harassment?

    It hardly fits in with the profile of pastoral care of a priest that everyone seems to say is a great guy that could not possibly be capable of doing anything unpleasant.

    He is of course under no obligation to like me but I was the son of a regular in the community, and a former pupil, experiencing the death of my mother. Did he not have an obligation to at least be civil given his ‘job description’ for want of a better term, we all come across people we dislike in our jobs but act professionally.

    Why did he feel the need to give a gay a filthy look ?, presumably he would have felt more comfortable with a criminal on day release from prison due to a bereavement than some one who simply happens to be gay. What did my sexuality possibly have to do with my mother’s death and a visit to the Abbey, why did it provoke such a reaction from him.

    The priest who actually did my mother’s funeral, in any other context I would assume to be gay and he clearly felt awkward around me. A few weeks after my mother’s funeral the priest in question choose to blank me like I was not there, he had clearly seen me and I have to say it hurt a bit. If I had bought something in a shop the shop keeper would acknowledge me on a chance encounter but I was ignored by the priest who did my mother’s funeral, some one who’s supposed job description is pastoral care, I could say that I found this slightly harassing and distressing.

    Friends have said he probably fancied me, well I feel self conscious and a bit nervous too around some one if I find them attractive but as you get beyond adolescence you learn to deal with such situations. Sometimes in a work situation I will think so and so is a bit alright but one is at work and acts accordingly. This priest ignored me a few weeks after doing my mother’s funeral, I can only conclude that, as a middle aged man, he is uncomfortable in his own skin and is, in sexual emotional terms, still an adolescent, if he can’t cope with some passing gay.

    In my experience their personal insecurities were more important to them than common human decency, it struck me on being blanked by the priest who did the funeral that I had just experienced more humanity chatting to an employee of the bank I had just been in.

  12. 15: 52. "Some of the staff live on the premises so they are highly unlikely to complain"...... that would be TWO out of FIFTY PLUS member of staff. What a way to phrase information. Also renders your argument absolutely invalid

  13. There was at one point, at least 5 members of staff living on school premises - so why so aggressive? If there are now only 2 living on the premises that does not in any way invalidate his/her statement. The bottom line is that some members of staff just simply are not very good at their jobs and would have great difficulty in gaining employment elsewhere. Oh dear - 02:49 - You obviously had a restless night! So where do you fit in I wonder?

  14. 02.49
    You seem to be very touchy maybe it was past your bedtime, my comments were not arguementative, I was passing comment from my own personal experience and from what i have seen. You need too chill out.