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Hearing told of sex acts in school between headteacher and lover
12:10am Friday 11th January 2013 in News
Headteacher Mark Stenton committed sex acts on school premises with a married member of staff, an employment tribunal was told.
Details of Mr Stenton’s turbulent affair with Clarendon College data administrator Angela Honeywell, 42, were revealed at a pre-hearing review in Bristol, where the legal team representing Mr Stenton acknowledged the acts had taken place.
The legal representatives were attempting to stop the press reporting Thursday’s hearing, at which Mrs Honeywell was claiming constructive unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and detriment against the Academy Trust of Clarendon Academy and Wiltshire Council.
A claim of sexual harassment against Mr Stenton, 42, was dismissed.
Barrister Elizabeth Cunningham, representing Mr Stenton and the school, referenced the sex acts taking place at the Frome Road school, in Trowbridge, when applying for restrictions preventing the reporting of the hearing.
“Our application is made specifically owing to the personal and intimate nature of the allegations of sexual harassment being made,” she said.
“This from the beginning to the end was a consensual sexual relationship and the documentation refers to shared sexual encounters taking place on school premises, that is accepted, which happened around about the first week in August 2011.”
The application for restrictions was rejected by judge Crista Christensen.
She said: "The claimant has submitted that the horse has already bolted and the press are in full possession of any aspects of facts relevant and in a tribunal hearing ultimately more will come out.
"However, given that the press do already know about the affair, the break-up and how some of this impacts on the school, I can see no worth in restricting the press from reporting the events.”
Divorcee Mr Stenton joined Clarendon College in June 2011 and soon started having an affair with Mrs Honeywell, moving into her marital home, previously shared with husband Chris, 42, in Yeoman Way, Trowbridge, living with her and her children, who attended the school.
Barrister Sarah Clarke, representing Mrs Honeywell, alleged Mr Stenton had acted inappropriately towards her on several occasions between June and October 2011.
In October 2011, Mrs Honeywell ended her affair reconciling with her husband, which resulted in Mr Stenton kicking the door of her home and being asked to leave by police.
He later sent a text to Mrs Honeywell’s 14-year-old daughter Amy threatening to commit suicide.
At the time, Mr Stenton told the Wiltshire Times: “It was what people say when they are feeling emotional. This was someone who was fully recognised as going to be my step-daughter and fully wanted that. It was the only way I could contact Angela.”
During the pre-hearing review Mrs Honeywell, who saw Mr Stenton for the first time since October 2011, spoke of the headteacher’s controlling nature and her fear of him.
Mr Honeywell, who asked for Mr Stenton to move at the hearing so she couldn’t see him while giving her evidence, said she had tried to continue in her role at the school after the affair ended but it was impossible for her because of Mr Stenton and his staff making her feel uncomfortable.
“I was so scared of him and I didn’t want to be under his control again and I was just scared of being in contact with him in any way. People would joke about me, talk about what had happened in the press and make snide comments,”
Mrs Honeywell, who was signed off sick in November 2011, said. “At that time I had seen members of staff at Aldi just glare and look at me if I was a piece of dirt and I was so ill after that so I thought there was no way I could go back.”
While she was signed off work Mrs Honeywell was paid £1,000 by Bella magazine for an interview in which she claimed the affair saved her marriage.
She told the hearing she was forced to give the interview because Mr Stenton had taken money from her and she was penniless.
“He’d taken every penny I had and it was the only way I could pay my mortgage and I was overdrawn for the first time in my life,” she said.
“I was completely cut up when I spoke to them, with hindsight would I do it again? Absolutely not but I needed that money as I don’t have credit cards and I was overdrawn and needed to pay the mortgage.
“Then what I had left I gave to my children which I know isn’t much consolation but they‘d had a rough time, that is what I regret most. I was so ill, I went down to six stone in weight and wanted things to get back to normal. If I could turn back the clock I wouldn’t do it again.”
After having meetings with human resources teams from Clarendon College and Wiltshire Council Mrs Honeywell finally returned to the job, which she said she loved, in April 2012 but handed in her notice on May 21 as she found her position untenable, feeling like a prisoner in her office.
“I had no understanding why I was being treated as an outcast by members of staff,” said Mrs Honeywell. “I spent 99 per cent of my time in the office because I was too scared to leave.”
She was supposed to leave the school on June 5 but went off sick again on May 25, the day the school issued an alleged grievance against Mrs Honeywell from a colleague she claimed not to have seen since October 2011.
Employment judge Christa Christensen dismissed the allegation of sexual harassment against Mr Stenton, at the pre-hearing, as the time period to lodge a claim had passed and she wasn’t satisfied with the submitted evidence to extend the deadline.
“The claimant put forward two reasons, firstly, that she had a fear of Mr Stenton and the repercussions she might suffer if she brought a claim against him while at the school and secondly it was her belief that an investigation was underway at the school and she was waiting to participate in that investigation and wished to await the outcome of it before determining her approach to those arguments,” said Ms Christensen.
“I must balance this by saying that the claimant went to see a solicitor in April a month before she resigned and also she had known since November, 2011, how to word and articulate a claim of sexual harassment, as she had practiced setting out how to do this in an email to her husband.”
Mr Stenton, who wasn’t asked to speak during last Thursday’s proceedings, was unavailable for comment.
Steve Thompson-Martyn, chairman of governors at Clarendon College, said: “If you are looking to discuss anything related to the ongoing tribunal case brought by a former member of the school staff then you will understand that as this is an ongoing case it would be inappropriate to discuss or comment on any aspect of the case.”
A full employment tribunal addressing Mrs Honeywell’s other claims is likely to be held in March or April.
Timeline of events:
- June 2011: Mark Stenton, 42, joins Clarendon College, which is in special measures, taking over from retiring headteacher Colin Kay and soon after he begins an affair with school data administrator Angela Honeywell, 42.
August 2011: Chris Honeywell, 42, discovers his wife has been having an affair with Mr Stenton.
- September 2011: Wiltshire Council investigate Mr Stenton’s relationship with Mrs Honeywell as the headteacher moves in with his lover.
October 2011: Mrs Honeywell ends her three-month relationship reconciling with Mr Honeywell. After discovering the news, Mr Stenton kicks in the door of their home in Yeoman Way, Trowbridge, being persuaded to leave by the police. He later sends a text to Mrs Honeywell’s then 14-year-old daughter Amy, a pupil at the school, threatening to commit suicide.
- November 2011: Outraged parents call for Mr Stenton to resign with Wiltshire Council and Clarendon College meeting to discuss his conduct. Mrs Honeywell goes on sick leave while daughter Kayleigh, 12, moves to John of Gaunt School with Amy staying at Clarendon College.
January 2012: Mr Stenton is investigated by Clarendon College governors and Wiltshire Council.
- March 2012: Mr Stenton keeps his £85,000 a year job as the college and the council conclude their investigation.
May 2012: Mrs Honeywell leaves Clarendon College.
- September 2012: Mrs Honeywell files for an employment tribunal claiming sexual harassment against Mr Stenton and alleging constructive unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and detriment against the Academy Trust of Clarendon Academy and Wiltshire Council.
October 2012: Following an Ofsted report Clarendon College is moved out of special measures with inspectors praising Mr Stenton as it is awarded good with outstanding leadership.
- January 2013: An employment tribunal pre-hearing review is held and the sexual harassment claim against Mr Stenton is dropped with a full hearing covering the remaining allegations expected to take place in the spring.