Deaf school chief sacked over worker’s abuse case

Janice MacNeill is preparing a legal challenge to Donaldson's decision. Picture: Dan Philips

Janice MacNeill is preparing a legal challenge to Donaldson's decision. Picture: Dan Philips

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THE boss of Scotland’s national deaf school has been dismissed following a probe into how allegations of a sex assault committed by one of her staff were handled.

Janice MacNeill, chief executive of Donaldson’s School in Linlithgow, was suspended pending an inquiry by board members into why staff waited nearly four years to take action against youth worker William Docherty – later convicted of indecently assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a birthday party and placed on the sex offenders register.

The Evening News can today reveal Ms MacNeill is no longer employed by the Donaldson’s Trust – and that she is preparing a legal challenge to the decision.

A family representative, who asked not to be named, said: “There is an appeal under way – it’s been extremely difficult.

“Negotiations are in a delicate situation.”

Bosses at the school – Scotland’s national education institution for deaf children – confirmed their decision after an investigation lasting several months into how teachers responded to early complaints regarding Docherty, 42.

Earlier this year, we revealed how communication support worker Docherty was found guilty at Falkirk Sheriff Court of a sickening assault in October 2009.

He pounced on his teen victim in the driveway of his parents’ home after a party at a nearby venue.

The victim, now 20, told Sheriff Derek O’Carroll how he felt Docherty “smelling his hair” before he was groped and asked if he wanted to accompany the older man to his hotel.

Although the incident was reported to staff by the boy’s mother, no action was taken and Docherty was not removed from his post until nearly four years later.

Headteacher Mary O’Brien was also suspended when details of the delay between the initial allegations of assault and Docherty’s eventual suspension emerged. It is not yet known whether disciplinary action will be taken against her.

The school was heavily criticised by Sheriff O’Carroll, who gave Docherty a two-year supervision order.

He said: “It is most unfortunate that the conclusion of this trial was delayed by four years. I am rather puzzled that Donaldson’s School, which is well known as a school for children who are vulnerable, have 
taken so long to deal with the accusation.”

Leaders at Donaldson’s have confirmed Ms MacNeill is no longer employed there. A spokeswoman said: “The matter is ongoing and being dealt with according to Donaldson’s internal procedures.”