Judges uphold Christian member of staff’s claim that resignation letter was forged while rejecting those of three Muslim colleagues at Birmingham school.
The tribunal heard claims by the four teaching assistants at Adderley primary school in east Birmingham, who said they had been unfairly dismissed after forged letters of resignation were submitted in their names.
The judges agreed with only one of them, Hilary Owens, a Christian staff member at the school, while rejecting the claims of the other three, Yasmin Akhtar, Rehena Khanom and Shahnaz Bibi, who are all Muslims of Pakistani descent.
In its decision published on Friday, the tribunal decided “on the balance of probabilities” that Khanom, Akhtar and Bibi were involved in the production of the resignation letters, but found Owens to be “a convincing and truthful witness”.
“Ms Owens is delighted by the judgment which puts to bed the ludicrous suggestion by the governors of the school that she was part of the Trojan Horse plot,” her solicitor, Daniel Zakis, said after the judgment was published. “The tribunal accepted all of Ms Owens’s evidence and she is relieved that after three years the truth has been established and it is now accepted that she did not resign from her position at the school.. .”
By contrast, the judges were not convinced by the evidence from the other three staff members, saying they “gave incredible evidence about their knowledge of Salafi Islam” and lacked credibility in denying knowledge of parental abuse aimed at the head teacher Rizvana Darr.
The judgment said the authors of the Trojan Horse dossier must be connected with one of the parties to the case, in what is the first official effort to identify its source. “Undoubtedly, whoever wrote the letter had intimate knowledge of the allegations going to the heart of this case. The writer must have had information passed to them from either the respondent’s or the claimants’ side,” it said.
Much of the evidence revolved around how and when the four letters of resignation were delivered, with Owens’ purported letter appearing a day after the other three. All four women are mentioned in the Trojan Horse dossier, although not by name, as being part of a plot to oust Darr as headteacher.
The dossier says “three of our Muslim sisters … along with an English woman who is their close friend, have raised an allegation of fraudulent resignation letters against the head (even though they did actually write the letters themselves)”. It ends by saying: “If all goes wrong everyone is briefed and will blame the English woman for planning and implementing the whole campaign to cause disruption among the Muslim staff and the Muslim headteacher.”