Gloucestershire teacher who took cocaine banned from teaching

Sheamol Ali was a supply teacher in the maths department at Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School in Wotton-under-Edge Credit: Google

A Gloucestershire supply teacher has been barred from returning to the classroom after he was found to have taken cocaine and marijuana.

Sheamol Ali was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute by a Teaching Regulation Agency panel on 20 October.

The supply teacher had been working at Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School in Wotton-under-Edge, on behalf of teacher supply agency HIE Education Ltd., since 1 September 2020.

But this came to an end when Ali was pulled over by police on 26 January 2021. Officers then arrested Ali after discovering cannabis and MDMA in his car.

A subsequent blood test, carried out at 12.45am on 27 January, found Ali had cocaine and marijuana in his system.

Police did not take any further action, but this led to him ultimately being struck off, as Ali had taught online lessons to pupils on 25 and 26 January.

In a letter Richard Nelson LLP Solicitors wrote defending Ali to the panel, stating that he had admitted to taking cocaine during the weekend of 23 and 24 January, and teaching online lessons over the next two days.

It also stated that the police toxicology report confirmed Ali had traces of cocaine in his system on Tuesday 26 January.

But it contested that Ali did not realise the substance would still be in his system three days after he had consumed it, stating Ali did not experience any effects of the Class A drug and did not consider himself to be under the influence of cocaine at any time on the 25 or 26 January.

The letter concluded that Ali did not and would not take drugs while working as a teacher and would not work if he was still under the influence of drugs. It stated he had not taken drugs since and had disassociated from the friends that encouraged this behaviour.

It further said that Ali had been teaching remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic, stating that if he had been due to teach in person then he would not have taken cocaine at the weekend.

The letter also reflected that the samples of cocaine taken from Ali were under the legal limit.

An unsigned statement of agreed facts prepared after the letter indicated the legal limit for cocaine is 50 micrograms of cocaine metabolites per litre of blood.

This is a higher level than when the police tested Ali, who was found to have 44 micrograms of cocaine metabolites per litre of blood.

But Ali also recognised in the unsigned statement that he admitted the allegation.

The letter concluded that he had been feeling the pressure of expectations, had been struggling with the pandemic and lacked teaching experience.

As well as the statement and the letter, the panel also considered a written statement by Ali expressing remorse, and positive character references about his ability as a teacher.

It recognised that Ali had previously been approached by police on 10 January, who found marijuana after carrying out a search of him and his vehicle and had been given a formal warning at the time.

Considering all the evidence, the panel noted the drug was taken shortly before 1am on Wednesday morning, around nine hours after the end of the teaching day and that Ali was only just under the legal limit for cocaine in respect of driving.

It accepted that Ali had been teaching remotely and that he had admitted taking large amounts of cocaine over the weekend, as part of the internal investigation.

But the panel concluded that it was not relevant that Ali was teaching remotely as he was still responsible for the pupils he taught, nor was it relevant that he was under the legal limit.

It then concluded on the balance of probabilities that Ali was under the influence of cocaine when he was teaching on 25 and 26 January 2021.

It also stated that Ali was aware he would have been under the influence of cocaine due to his comment that he would not have taken the drug had he been teaching in person.

While the panel took account of Ali's evidence, it did not consider it to be particularly compelling, though it noted that Mr Ali appeared to show some insight and remorse.

It felt the evidence did not suggest Ali had demonstrated exceptionally high standards of personal and professional conduct, nor had he contributed significantly to the educator sector.

It banned Ali from teaching indefinitely, meaning he cannot teach in any school, sixth form, college, relevant youth accommodation or children's home in England.

But it considered Ali might be able to reflect on his conduct and take steps to demonstrate the changes referred to in the letter to the panel. He can apply for the prohibition order to be set aside, but not for five years from when the order was issued.

This means he will not be able to apply to have the order set aside until 20 October, 2027.

Credit: Carmelo Garcia, Local Democracy Reporter Service