The West

An experienced teacher accused of sexually abusing boys three times without being convicted has lost a legal battle to secure a new working with children permit after a tribunal ruled his behaviour pointed to a history of "grooming" boys.

The State Administrative Tribunal was ordered by a Supreme Court judge last year to review its decision to ban Allan William Hardingham from child-related work.

Last week, tribunal supplementary president Stephen Hall supported the Department for Child Protection's move in 2008 to issue the middle-aged teacher with a "negative notice", preventing him from working with children.

Justice Hall said the fact Mr Hardingham had no convictions was relevant, but the best interest of children was paramount in the Working with Children legislation.

"The evidence and the findings . . . support a reasonable suspicion the applicant's behaviour can properly be described as grooming and indicates an unacceptable risk of sexual harm to children," he said.

Mr Hardingham was convicted in 1992 of two counts of indecently dealing with a 12-year-old boy at a holiday cabin. He was suspended without pay until the Criminal Court of Appeal quashed those convictions in 1994.

The Education Department reinstated Mr Hardingham and he was a deputy principal in 2008 when it was alleged he indecently dealt with a 14-year-old boy at the cabin. Prosecutors dropped the charge.

Mr Hardingham, who began teaching in 1983 and worked for two years as a principal, protested his innocence on both occasions.

Justice Hall found Mr Hardingham's inappropriate behaviour included befriending pubescent boys, offering them alcohol without their parents' permission, sleeping in the same bed as one boy and taking photos and video of partially undressed boys weightlifting.

Justice Hall said there was a "real possibility" Mr Hardingham's actions were designed to pave the way for inappropriate intimacy.

Mr Hardingham denies anything sinister or untoward in his dealings with the children.

Justice Hall noted the evidence did not suggest Mr Hardingham had put children at risk in his capacity as a teacher, but he had shown a "lack of judgment, and willingness to expose children to situations where they are at risk of physical or sexual harm".

The West Australian

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