Eighty students who sat the Leaving Certificate exams this year have not been given their results over fears they may have cheated.

The State Examinations Commission has confirmed results are being "permanently withheld" from 43 of these students and it is still investigating the cases of a further 37 students whose results have not yet been handed out.

The commission said their results are being provisionally withheld on a without prejudice basis, pending further communication with the schools and the candidates concerned.

Guidance Councillor and Irish Times Education Columnist Brian Mooney said if an invigilator finds a student has material on them, or an electronic device is found with material on that, or if in some way a student is found to have breached the regulations, the student will finish the exam but that paper will go away with any material or electronic device in a separate envelope.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Mooney said the regulations are posted outside every centre where the state exams are being held and the invigilator will also read out the instructions to the students before every exam.

He explained that at the State Examinations Commission an investigation takes place where the evidence is examined and a determination is made as to whether the student breached the regulations in a manner that attempted to enhance their opportunities to succeed in the examination.

There are a series of options, depending on the severity of the breach, the result in that subject may be withheld or the student could have the results of their entire Junior or Leaving Cert withheld.

In most cases it is simply that the student does not get a grade in that subject.

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If the subject is Maths, English or Irish - where a student would not meet the requirement for entry to the vast majority of courses - it effectively means that student is stymied in terms of where they might go for further studies.

If it is one of the six subjects for which they are looking for their points for the CAO offers then they would not get the course they had hoped for, which is a really serious matter, Mr Mooney said.

In 2017 there were around 57 results withheld eventually and in the previous two years it was 100 and 101.

The State Examinations Commission issued a statement to RTÉ saying the most common penalty applied is the withholding of the result in the subject in question.

It said that where a more serious breach of the regulations occurs, such as copying in more than one subject, withholding of all results and/or debarring from repeating the examination may be applied.

The regulations apply equally to practical and project work as well as to the work presented in the written examination.

Details of the evidence available, such as superintendent's reports, confiscated material or items, notes or work prepared that exhibits evidence of collusion, is given to the candidate through his/her school.  

The candidate is invited to offer a response to the evidence presented and the school authorities are also free to offer comment if they consider it appropriate.  

The final decision is communicated in writing to the candidate again via his/her school. A decision to withhold a result is open to appeal, the SEC said. 

The commission said that while every effort is made to conclude an investigation prior to the issue of the examination results, it is not always possible to do so.

In these circumstances results are withheld on a without prejudice basis pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned.

The SEC fully respects the protection afforded to all candidates under the Data Protection Acts and is therefore prohibited from releasing information which could be used to identify any candidate to third parties.