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Great Harwood school deputy head not guilty of slapping pupil
A TEACHER who was accused of slapping an ‘unruly’ pupil has been cleared of assault.
Blackburn magistrates heard how Royden Cope, deputy head teacher at St Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School, Great Harwood, had to restrain a pupil displaying the 'worst behaviour' he had seen in a child in his 41 years as a teacher.
Mr Cope, of Hatfield Road, Accrington, had been accused of restraining the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, by the wrists and then slapping him across the face when he did not calm down.
The 63-year-old denied the charge, saying that because the youngster was ‘flailing and struggling to get away’, the boy’s head had collided with his hand.
After the court hearing Mr Cope did not make a statement but his son Robin said: “It should never have come to this. There is an issue of unruly children and it shouldn’t come to this where experienced teachers are coming before the court.
“It has caused a lot of distress.”
The magistrates heard how the pupil had lashed out at several of his classmates in a tantrum and his behaviour had become so ‘out of control’ that Mr Cope had been called to take him to another room.
He said the pupil was in such a rage that he grabbed onto railings to prevent him being removed, continuously shouting 'get off me, get off me'.
Once in the room, the two sat down on the carpet and Mr Cope repeatedly said 'calm down, calm down', a technique which Mr Cope said had previously been successful.
The shouting was heard by Thomas Lowe, another of the teachers at the Ash Street school, who came in to assist.
Mr Lowe said he saw Mr Cope hit the child and then threaten to do it again if he did not calm down.
He told magistrates: “He held the pupil by the arms.
“The child was being very difficult, he was shouting a lot, he was red in the face and was struggling very much against Mr Cope.
“Mr Cope was not using a technique I knew, but he seemed in charge. He was being forceful but fair.
”I know that you should support someone and not let them be alone with a child, so I went into the classroom.
“The child’s arms were flailing and he kept on shouting, getting more and more hysterical.
“Mr Cope released or lost control of the boy’s left arm and then he struck him across the face.”
Mr Lowe said he then helped to restrain the boy by grabbing him in a cross arm hold.
“He said: “I hoped it was an accident but he then said ‘do you want another one, I will hit you again’.
Children in the hall could hear the pupil continue screaming, he told the court.
Mr Cope said: "It was brought to my attention by his class teacher that he had been aggressive that morning and was kicking off again.
"I took hold of him by his hands, as I would my granddaughter as we are crossing the road.
“We walked across the carpet and I asked him to sit down and I kneeled down in front of him.
“He was throwing himself from side to side and sort of rocking on his bottom, trying to get away.
“He was rocking and rolling his head around, trying to break free.
“I put my hand out to stop him and he slammed into my hand.”
Mr Cope said the child repeatedly screamed ‘get off me, get off me’ between 50 and 100 times, ignoring what he was saying to him.
The magistrates ruled that it could not be proven beyond all reasonable doubt that Mr Cope had deliberately hit the child and that over the child’s screams, it was possible the deputy head’s words had been misheard.
Simon Farnsworth, defending, said: "The boy was an unruly pupil and had been since he started nursery.
“Mr Cope’s hand came into contact with the boy’s head in an accident in an environment where he was a danger to himself.”
Two character witnesses came to court to speak on Mr Cope’s behalf.
James Oldcorn, a parent, PTA member, governor at the school and former senior police officer, said: “I always found Mr Cope a very enthusiastic teacher.
“He continued the very idea of a Christian School, where every child mattered.”
Wendy Litherland, the mother of a pupil at St Bartholomew’s, said: “Mr Cope is an absolutely outstanding teacher, he has dedicated his life to St Bartholomew’s and all the parents are 100 per cent behind him.
“This is because of one child. There are not enough measures to deal with this.”