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North Wales school principal 'told sick Justin Bieber joke'

Published date: 01 February 2013 |
Published by: Staff Reporter
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A FORMER boarding school principal claiming unfair dismissal was accused of making a “repulsive joke” about global superstar Justin Bieber, a tribunal heard.

Bernie Routledge, who was sacked from Howell’s School in Denbigh in May 2011, was said to have told the joke to children while covering a history lesson.

The claims were made in a statement by teacher Carys Hughes, who also alleged he told children “there is no God”.

But Mr Routledge described the allegations as “absolute nonsense and a distortion of what was said in lessons”.

He was also accused of drinking alcohol on the school premises, but it transpired he was given wine along with other staff by trustees at the school.

An employment tribunal at Wrexham heard yesterday that a report written by staff member Paul Gibson in February 2011 read: “One afternoon during January 2010 we had a particularly bad snowstorm which lasted several hours.”

He added he was “shocked and surprised” to find Mr Routledge, who lives in Gwernaffield, near Mold, drinking wine along with other staff in one of the boarding rooms.

John Benson, representing Mr Routledge on day three of the tribunal, said: “It is a nonsense to suggest the consumption of alcohol is banned by policy. Alcohol was served by the trustees to Mr Routledge and other staff on the date in question.”

Questioned by Mr Benson, Alan – brother of trustee Robert Locke, the man who chaired Mr Routledge’s disciplinary panel – said: “The allegations were found to be unfounded and there were occasions where alcohol was consumed.”

Mr Benson said: “Mr Routledge was presented with a reel of allegations which were used to intimidate him and were dreamed up to oust him from the school.”

He raised questions over the validity and source of an anonymous letter which was used by the school as evidence against his client.

The letter, purporting to be from the mother of a girl at the school, alleged Mr Routledge had made comments about disability to pupils and called for action against him.

At a disciplinary meeting Alan Locke said he confirmed the source of the letter with its author – namely, he said, Jane Fellows, who had no children at the school.

But at the tribunal Mr Locke said he had “misspoken” and that it was a fellow trustee and family member Nicola Locke, who told him who wrote it.

He admitted he made no attempt to contact Jane Fellows and, appearing as a witness at the tribunal, she denied writing the letter.

Mr Routledge claimed it was in fact Robert Locke’s daughter who wrote the letter.
The tribunal continues.

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