By Cara Sulieman
A GUN-WIELDING teacher has been struck off after firing an air rifle at a teenager to frighten off a gang he claimed had attacked him.
Allan Dickson was fined £1,000 after he admitted two firearms offences at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in March last year.
Dickson, 33, was suspended by Midlothian Council following the incident which he said was “totally out of character”.
And today (Tuesday) the Disciplinary Sub-Committee of the General Teaching Council (GTC) struck him off for at least a year after deciding he was not fit to teach.
Dickson – who also confessed to having a drink problem – had pleaded with the panel to let him continue with what he called his “passion” but admitted the charges were serious enough to remove him from the teaching register.
But Convener Carole Ford described Dickson’s actions as “highly irresponsible and reckless” and banned him for re-applying to be admitted to the register for 12 months.
Adam Scarcliffe, representing the shamed teacher, said: “Allan would like to apologise for bringing any disrepute to the GTC or the education profession in general.
“He would like to respectfully ask the members of the sub-committee to refrain from permanently removing him from the register.
“This was the first offence he has ever committed and one that was totally out of character.”
And Dickson also submitted two character references in his defence.
One was from Reverend Andy Scarcliffe, the other from Colin Taylor, head teacher at Newbattle Community High School.
Mr Scarcliffe said: “In respect of Allan’s character, Reverend Andy Scarcliffe has submitted a character reference. He considers the incident completely out of character and I ask the committee to consider this statement in full.
“There is also a letter from Colin Taylor describing the passion and strength Allan has to offer the profession.
“Teaching is more than just a job for Allan. If you do consider professional punishment is appropriate, I ask that you allow him to return to the profession he loves at some point in the future.”
But Paul Marshall, the lawyer for the GTC, said that the gravity of the conviction meant the panel had no choice but to strike Dickson off.
“No room for doubt”
And that he had previously admitted to the GTC that he had an alcohol problem that he was receiving counselling for.
Mr Marshall said: “The respondent’s actions in discharging a fire arm is one of the utmost gravity and, in my submission, there can be no room for doubt on how the committee should respond to this matter.
“The only responsible course in this case is to remove him from the register.
“In a letter written to Mr Paxman, an investigating officer with the GTC, the respondent said that through discussion with the GP and social worker who prepared his background reports for court, he found he had an alcohol dependency problem.
“It’s to be hoped that with time he is able to overcome this problem.
“However against all of this, the offence is of such a gravity that the only course of actions is to remove the respondent from the register.”
Delivering the panel’s verdict, Convener Carole Ford said that they had considered Dickson’s personal circumstances, but still felt it was necessary to remove him from the register.
Ms Ford said: “The respondent submitted two character references, one from a minister of religion and the other from a head teacher.
“Both referees had personal knowledge of the respondent’s personal circumstances.
“In addition the respondent submitted a lengthy letter expressing his deep regret for his conduct and setting out his personal circumstances.
“The sub-committee had regard to the fact that this was a first offence, considered to be out of character, and he was undergoing counselling for an existing alcohol dependency problem.
“However, in all the sub-committee was unanimous in concluding that the respondent’s name should be removed from the register.
“In this case it was a matter of fact that the respondent had unlawful possession of a firearm and it was highly irresponsible and reckless of him to engage in criminal behaviour of any kind especially involving the misuse of a firearm.”
Dickson fired shots from a gas powered air pistol in Granton Mill Drive, Edinburgh in July 2008.
Scott Melvin – then 18 years old – had to run to safety before he reported the incident to police.
Dickson told police who interviewed him that he had tried to scare Mr Melvin off after being beaten up by a gang.