CROYDON MP Gavin Barwell – the chairman of governors at exclusive Trinity School – has defended the decision to appoint a teacher who was sacked from his previous post for inappropriately text messaging a 12-year-old girl.
The MP for Croydon Central said all appropriate checks had been made before employing Benjamin Laundon, whom he said was "the best candidate for the job".
But he acknowledged that both he and headmaster Mark Bishop were aware the history teacher and cadet leader had been dismissed from Caterham School for gross misconduct.
Mr Laundon, 40, of Norman Avenue, South Croydon, was last month cleared of historic charges of inappropriately touching a different schoolgirl in 2006.
However, it has emerged Mr Laundon had been dismissed by Caterham School in 2007 after it was discovered he had inappropriately text messaged a 12-year-old student.
Julian Thomas, head teacher at Caterham School, confirmed the teacher was dismissed for gross misconduct.
He added: "We contacted all the relevant parties, including the police and social services, and his future employers. Trinity School were aware of the issue."
Soon after his dismissal, Mr Laundon secured a position at Trinity in Shirley, even though the headmaster, Mark Bishop, who had previously been deputy head at Caterham School, knew of his history.
He left Trinity in 2011 after the allegations he was acquitted of at court last month were raised.
Mr Barwell, a former pupil of the £13,000-a-year school, told the Advertiser: "As a governor at Trinity School I was consulted at the time of hiring Mr Laundon.
"There were three things that the governors checked. There was an extensive CRB check on Mr Laundon, we spoke to the Department for Education, and we also got information from social services.
"None of those three things flagged up any problems with him, and he was the best candidate for the job.
"As the head teacher Mark Bishop was aware of the issue, we actually went above and beyond what was needed.
"The fact that Mark Bishop knew him from Caterham had nothing to do with him getting the job; he was the best candidate. We went above and beyond to check he was OK, as pastoral care is very important at Trinity School."
In a statement, Trinity head Mr Bishop said: "Both the Department of Education and the Ministry of Defence, who had investigated the reasons for his departure, assured us that he could continue to work with young people.
"An enhanced CRB check was carried out, as it is with all staff, and the decision to appoint was approved at the time by Surrey Social Services. Given this clear and consistent advice, governors approved the appointment."
"It should be made clear that the text message that Mr Laundon sent to the pupil was not of a sexual or indecent nature.
"This was confirmed by police, social services and his previous school. Had it been of that nature, clearly Mr Laundon would not have been appropriate to work with young people and I would never have appointed him.
"I would also add that, during the time that he worked here, Mr Laundon conducted himself at the school with exemplary professionalism."