Festival embezzler can teach again

Kelso High School, where Ms McWilliam taught modern studies before she stole �12,376 from Duns Summer Festival.
Kelso High School, where Ms McWilliam taught modern studies before she stole �12,376 from Duns Summer Festival.

The woman who embezzled more than £12,000 from Duns Summer Festival has been told she can continue to teach.

Alison McWilliam was convicted of stealing £12,376 from the festival in November 2015 and was later sentenced to a community payback order with two years’ supervision and 200 hours of unpaid work.

She was also fired from her job as a modern studies teacher at Kelso High School and had to cash in her pension to pay the money back to the festival.

The 56-year-old was up in front of the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) last month for a hearing to ascertain whether she was fit to teach.

The decision of the panel was published last week, and it decided not to strike her off, but a conditional registration order was imposed, along with a reprimand, in order that the seriousness of her crime was “sufficiently marked”.

Ms McWilliam, who pled guilty at the earliest opportunity, said the crime came about after she had become addicted to online gambling following her involvement in a fatal car crash in Edinburgh in 2014.

Ms McWilliam was represented by 12 witnesses at the hearing, made up of former colleagues, family members and a representative of her current employer, Border Embroideries at Duns.

She told the hearing that she had turned to online gambling to occupy her mind following the accident, in which an elderly lady slipped and fell into the path of her car, and died.

However, the gambling became a “crutch”, and it led to her building up a debt, which in turn led to the theft.

She said: “I am a good person who did a bad thing. I made a mistake.

“I care a great deal about the summer festival, having been involved with it for 12 years, and was treasurer in that time.”

She added that she visits Gamblers Anonymous meetings every week and she has now got her finances under control, and she said that although her fitness to teach was impaired, she denied being unfit to teach.

The panel deliberated at length and concluded that a conditional registration order and reprimand would be appropriate.

The report stated: “The panel considered the conditions identified to be proportionate and appropriate with reference to the conduct set out in the complaint.

“The panel was of the view that the ongoing monitoring of these aspects of [Ms McWilliam]’s behaviour would provide public confidence in her as a teacher, teaching as a profession and GTCS as the regulator.

“The panel was satisfied that the conditions were measureable.”