A FORMER boarding school principal who is claiming unfair dismissal broke down in tears after claiming to a tribunal that one of the school’s trustees called him a paedophile.
Bernie Routledge, who lives in Gwernaffield, near Mold, was principal of Howell’s School in Denbigh before being sacked in May 2011.
On day four of the tribunal on Friday, Mr Routledge told the court Nicola Locke, wife of fellow trustee Robert Locke, accused him of being a paedophile.
The incident was alleged to have happened at a stairwell in the Wrexham Magistrates Court building during an adjournment in the case earlier on in the week.
Mr Routledge said that after having a consultation with his lawyer John Benson, he was going outside for a cigarette when he met Mr and Mrs Locke.
Mr Routledge claimed Mrs Locke said to him: “We are not talking together paedo.”
After telling the court about his experience Mr Routledge was visibly upset and an adjournment was called to allow him to compose himself again.
Following the adjournment further questions were put to Mr Routledge by Robert Locke about his conduct on the Facebook page called the Bernie Routledge Appreciation Society (BRAS), which he was said to have used to communicate with children.
Mr Routledge said the page was brought to his attention by a former pupil at King’s School in Chester, where he used to teach.
One comment by a pupil at Howell’s school read “You’re so funny and you make me laugh.”
Mr Routledge replied by saying “Is it because I is simples?”.
School trustee Robert Locke claimed that the comment was made in reference to the pupil’s learning difficulties.
But Mr Routledge said he was clearly talking about himself and that he was referring to the meerkat in the popular Compare the Market adverts.
He conceded that some people may have found his comments on the Facebook page inappropriate.
But he said: “In the 21st century many choose to interact using social networking sites, so I can’t really agree that social media shouldn’t be used in this way.
“The site itself is obviously a humorous site. I accept unequivocally that people may have had a look at it and said that’s inappropriate, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s inappropriate.
He added: “I wasn’t hired to be a traditional boarding school head, the school knew what they were getting.”
Mr Routledge also complained about the decision to appoint Alan Locke, brother of Robert Locke and a fellow trustee at the school, as the chair of his disciplinary hearing.
He said the school’s procedure stated that the chair of governors, John Gardner, should chair such proceedings and a trustee should not be appointed.
Robert Locke said the decision was made due to “a lack of resources”.
The tribunal was adjourned until March 11 and 12