A primary school teacher who was sacked for standing by her paedophile headmaster husband after he was jailed has won the right to thousands of pounds in compensation.
Sarah Pendleton said her marriage vow was a ‘sacrosanct’ promise to God and refused to leave her husband, Matthew Pendleton, after his disgrace.
Her stance earnt her dismissal from Glebe Junior School, in South Normanton, despite her ‘exemplary’ teaching record.
There was also no suggestion that Mrs Pendleton knew anything about her husband’s perverted activities before his arrest.
Now, in a landmark decision, a top employment judge has ruled her dismissal was unfair and amounted to religious discrimination.
Judge Jennifer Eady QC’s ruling means Mrs Pendleton is entitled to substantial damages from the school’s governing body and Derbyshire County Council.
Matthew Pendleton, former head of Kirkstead Junior School, in nearby Pinxton, was jailed for 10 months at Derby Crown Court in July 2013.
He took a secret camera, disguised as a pen, into children’s changing rooms and filmed boys whilst they were getting changed for swimming lessons.
Pendleton admitted voyeurism and 12 counts of making indecent images of children - but his crimes came as a “bolt from the blue” to his devoutly Christian wife.
She said she had, ‘in the presence of God’, promised to stay by her husband’s side ‘for better or worse’.
And she told the governors she would stick by him so long as he showed ‘unequivocal repentance’ for his crimes.
But they said her decision to ‘support’ her husband could be viewed as ‘condoning his behaviour’.
Despite her 12 years of unblemished service, continuing her relationship with her husband meant she was ‘not suitable to be a teacher’.
Mrs Pendleton said ‘her marriage vow was sacrosanct, having been made with God’ but was given her marching orders in August 2013.
Upholding her religious discrimination claim, Judge Eady told the Employment Appeal Tribunal she had been faced by ‘a crisis of conscience’.
She had, in effect, been forced to choose between the end of her career and abandoning her marriage vow.
The decision to dismiss Mrs Pendleton was also ‘outside the band of reasonable responses’ open to the governors.
They failed to adequately consider alternatives to sacking her and she had been placed at “a particular disadvantage” because of her religious convictions.
The amount of Mrs Pendleton’s compensation for unfair dismissal and religious discrimination has yet to be assessed.