A FORMER teacher who received a suspended prison sentence for growing cannabis at his house has breached teaching guidelines, a fitness to practice panel has decided.
Christian Powell taught at Pontllanfraith Comprehensive School for 10 years but left prior to the school’s merger with Oakdale Comprehensive to form Islwyn High School last year.
He received an eight month prison sentence suspended for two years in January 2016 for producing a controlled drug after admitting to the offence at Cardiff Crown Court.
The former teacher did not appear at the Education Workforce Council’s (EWC) Fitness to Practise hearing held in Cardiff yesterday.
Cadi Dewi, the representing officer for the EWC, told the hearing that following Powell’s arrest, police officers searched his property and found 24 cannabis plants in different stages of growth.
She said: “Christian Powell was previously a teacher at Pontllanfraith Comprehensive School and on April 20, 2015 he was arrested for cultivating a class B drug that being cannabis.
“Police discovered an upstairs room where they uncovered two tents with 12 mature cannabis plants. Inside one of the tents was also a ventilation system and fan system.
“In a second smaller tent there were 12 plants.”
Ms Dewi said officers recovered currency including US and Caribbean dollars, pounds and euros with a combined value of £1,020. The police also recovered the Powell’s phone, which showed messages indicating that quantities of cannabis were being sold from the cultivation.
The representing officer added that the school found the actions of the teacher to signify gross misconduct.
“The issue appears to be an intention to sell cannabis that was to be produced all being well to others,” she said.
Ms Dewi added that during the defendant’s appearance at Cardiff Crown Court, the judge agreed that text messages found on his phone were “indicative of the defendant having an intention to sell the cannabis he produced or some of the cannabis he was producing”.
The officer added that the offence was more serious due to the former teacher’s line of work and his “social responsibility”.
“It is a serious offence,” she said, “an offence related to drugs is particularly significant with the age that Mr Powell was teaching.
“He was a secondary school teacher.”
Representing the former teacher was his father, David Powell, who said that since his son’s dismissal from the school, he worked as a stay-at-home husband and had no desire to return to teaching.
“Christian does not want to return to teaching,” said David Powell.
He said: “He would voluntarily exclude himself from teaching.”
The former teacher admits the first but did not admit to the second.
“Christian did not produce cannabis and he certainly did not intend to sell the cannabis that he was growing,” said David Powell.
“He was certainly producing cannabis – that is clear.
He added: “He accepted cultivating – he did say he accepted production on the basis he would smoke some himself and sell some to others with whom he frequented.”
David Powell told the hearing that the first allegation was accepted but that his son denied the second allegation that the conviction is a ‘relevant offence’ to practise as a teacher.
The admitted allegation put to the former Pontllanfraith Comprehensive School teacher is “on December 14, 2015, you were convicted of producing a (class B) controlled drug, contrary to section 4(2)(a) of the misuse of drugs act 1971.
“As a consequence of this offence, on January 26, 2016, you were sentenced to eight months imprisonment suspended for 24 months and directed to carry out unpaid work of 120 hours before January 25, 2017.”
However, the second allegation was not admitted, with the registered person’s representative querying the term ‘relevant’
The second allegation is “the facts of paragraph one constitute ‘a relevant offence’ meaning ‘a conviction in the United Kingdom for a criminal offence, other than one having no material relevance to a person’s fitness to be a registered person in the relevant category of registration’.”
Concluding, Steve Powell, the chairman of the committee, told the hearing that the actions of the former teacher breached those expected of a teacher.
He said that text messages recovered from the former teacher’s phone were “indicative of an intention to supply cannabis” and his actions were “partially financially motivated”.
“He had intended to sell cannabis to those known to him in addition to his own use,” said Steve Powell.
In relation to the second accusation, the chairman found that despite the allegation not relating to conduct in the school environment, he was “expected to uphold public confidence” while employed as a teacher.
The hearing has adjourned ahead of the mitigation and sanction phase of the hearing. Proceeding.