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Queensland College of Teachers v Liddell QCAT 344
QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL
Queensland College of Teachers v Steven Patrick Liddell  QCAT 344
Queensland College of Teachers
Steven Patrick Liddell
Occupational regulation matters
11 November 2019
On the Papers
Senior Member Aughterson
EDUCATION – EDUCATORS – DISCIPLINARY MATTERS – whether suspension should continue – where teacher has been charged with a serious offence – whether Tribunal has power to extend time limit specified in the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act
Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld) s 48, s 50, s 53, s 54, s 55, sch 3
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) s 6, s 7, s 61, s 66
Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 (Qld) s 167
Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) s 47, s 315A, s 339
Elizabeth Jane Houston, Principal Legal Officers, Queensland College of Teachers
Naomi Sherrington, Sibley Lawyers
This matter was heard and determined on the papers pursuant to s 32 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld)
REASONS FOR DECISION
- The Queensland College of Teachers (‘the College’) suspended Steven Patrick Liddell’s teacher registration on 12 September 2019 pursuant to s 48 of the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld) (‘the Education Act’), on the grounds that the Teacher had been charged with a serious offence within the meaning of s 167 of the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000; namely, offences under ss 339(1)&(3) & 47(9) and 315A(1)(a)&(b)(i) & 47(9) of the Criminal Code.
- By s 48 of the Education Act, the College must suspend the registration of an ‘approved teacher’ immediately after becoming aware that the teacher is charged with a ‘serious offence’. Notice of the suspension is given to the teacher pursuant to s 50(1) the Education Act, which notice must include a statement that QCAT will review the continuation of the suspension to decide whether it is an exceptional case in which the best interests of children would not be harmed if the suspension were ended.
- In accordance with s 50(5) of the Act, the College has referred the continuation of the suspension to QCAT for review pursuant to s 53 of the Education Act. By s 53(1) the Tribunal must decide whether to continue the suspension, while s 53(3)(a) requires the Tribunal to continue the suspension unless satisfied that the matter is an exceptional case in which the best interests of children would not be harmed if the suspension were ended.
- As required by s 54(1)(a) of the Education Act, on 24 September 2019 directions were made by the Tribunal inviting the respondent to file by 29 October 2019 any submissions showing why the matter is an exceptional case. No submissions in that regard have been received from the respondent.
- However, on 30 October 2019 the respondent’s legal representative filed an application, consented to by the College, to extend until after 10 December 2019 the time for the teacher to comply with the directions of 24 September 2019. The given reason for the application was that a committal proceeding in relation to the criminal charges is scheduled for 10 December 2019, at which time it is said that the criminal matters may resolve.
- Section 55(3) of the Education Act provides that the Tribunal’s decision in this matter ‘must’ be made no later than 14 days after the earlier of receipt of the teacher’s submissions under s 54 of the Education Act or the expiration of the time stated for receipt of those submissions. On that basis, a decision must be made by 12 November 2019.
- The applicant submits that there is power to extend time pursuant to s 61(1)(b) of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) (‘the QCAT Act’), which provides that the Tribunal may, by order, ‘extend or shorten a time limit fixed by this Act, an enabling Act or the rules’. That would seem to allow the extension of the time limit prescribed by s 55(3) of the Act, when that sub-section is read in isolation.
- However, s 55(4) of the Act further provides:
If QCAT does not make a decision within the 14 day period under subsection (3), QCAT is taken to have made an order ending the suspension.
That subsection does not seem to anticipate that a further period of time might be allowed under the QCAT Act. The subsection is not qualified by adding, for example, ‘or such further period as allowed by QCAT’. Rather, it is evident that it serves to emphasise the necessity to make the decision within the prescribed timeframe.
- In that context, s 6(7) of the QCAT Act provides, in part:
An enabling Act that is an Act may also include provisions about the following maters, which may add to, otherwise vary, or exclude provisions of this Act about the matters –
- (a)requirements about applications, referrals or appeals for jurisdiction conferred by the enabling Act;
Also, s 7(2) of the QCAT Act provides: ‘The modifying provision prevails over the provisions of this Act, to the extent of any inconsistency between them.
- In my view, it would be inconsistent with s 55(3) and (4) of the Education Act to allow an extension of time pursuant to s 61 of the QCAT Act in the present circumstances.
- There being no evidence before the Tribunal that this is an exceptional case for ending the suspension of the registration of the respondent as a teacher, I am not satisfied that this is an exceptional case in which the best interests of children would not be harmed if the suspension were ended.
- I note that under s 55(6) of the Act, the respondent may apply within 28 days of the notice of this decision to QCAT for review of this decision. He may at that point provide any additional material which may support a submission that he does not pose an unacceptable risk of harm to children.
- Published Case Name:
Queensland College of Teachers v Steven Patrick Liddell
- Shortened Case Name:
Queensland College of Teachers v Liddell
 QCAT 344
Senior Member Aughterson
11 Nov 2019