5:35pm Friday 1st November 2013
A TEACHER followed by a private surveillance firm for Caerphilly County Borough Council has said she felt “violated” when she found out.
Kim Shaw was on sick leave and suspended on full pay from her post at Pontllanfraith Comprehensive School when she was followed in 2010, a report reveals.
She was subsequently dismissed from her post of 32 years in 2012 and launched an unfair dismissal claim against the local authority, her employers.
But just days before the tribunal, early last month, she found out she had been the subject of a three-day investigation by Blackwood-based Conquest Surveillance Services, at a cost of £3,600 to Caerphilly Council.
Mrs Shaw, who lives in Blackwood, said the revelation made her “skin crawl”.
“I actually shuddered in revulsion,” she said.
Mrs Shaw found about the surveillance from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
Images showed her shopping and chatting with residents about town, while an accompanying report said she was “generally active”.
It also said she wore “unusual” kitten-heeled shoes.
Mrs Shaw added: “What gives them the right to judge me in so many personal ways? Surveillance is meant to be used in exceptional circumstances, but in this case they violated my privacy purely to find something to use against me. But there was nothing to find.
“There was no justification for it. My sick note said I was on work-related stress, and my doctor encouraged me to get out and interact as I was largely house-bound.”
Colin Adkins, a Wales official for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), slammed the council over the use of the surveillance tactics.
He said the matter was now being pursued through a formal complaint.
“We will pursue the matter until the officials responsible answer the questions we put to them,” said Mr Adkins who met with Mrs Shaw and Islwyn MP Chris Evans about the issue yesterday (FRI).
Mrs Shaw is now awaiting the result of the tribunal.
The FOI report, seen by the Argus, said Caerphilly Council used the surveillance to identify whether Mrs Shaw was “defrauding the authorities sickness absence system”.
Leader of Caerphilly Council Councillor Harry Andrews said: "Of course, we regret the distress caused to Mrs Shaw by the surveillance carried out by our Council in 2010. But since Labour took leadership of the council last year, we have introduced stronger controls of all staff surveillance activity. We will ensure that the service is delivered by a legitimate supplier selected through fair and proper procurement procedures. And we've reviewed our staff surveillance policy in consultation with our trade unions.”
A Caerphilly council spokesman declined to comment pending the outcome of the tribunal.
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