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Belfast teacher accused of throwing boy against wall wins her appeal against conviction

By Alan Erwin

Published 11/06/2015

Primary school teacher wins her appeal against being convicted of a classroom assault on an eight-year-old pupil.
Primary school teacher wins her appeal against being convicted of a classroom assault on an eight-year-old pupil.

A north Belfast primary school teacher today won her appeal against being convicted of a classroom assault on an eight-year-old pupil.

The 57-year-old defendant was alleged to have thrown the boy against a wall after accusing him of making animal noises.

But a judge at Belfast County Court reversed the guilty verdict based on inconsistencies in the child's account.

Neither the P5 teacher nor her school are being named to ensure the boy's identity is protected.

She had previously been convicted of assault at the city's Magistrates Court and fined £250.

The alleged victim told police the incident happened in February last year as his class was lining up to get their coats.

In a recorded interview played during the appeal hearing, he described someone making a sheep-like noise.

The boy was among three pupils quizzed about who was responsible before the other two were allowed to go, the court heard.

Despite protesting his innocence, he claimed: "She said 'Don't blame other people' in an angry voice.

"That's when she grabbed me and threw me against the wall."

He alleged that his back and head struck the surface before the teacher then told him to go and get his coat.

No-one else witnessed the incident.

According to the child's account to police he was sick outside.

During cross-examination Gavan Duffy QC, for the teacher, questioned him about a separate incident where he got detention for poking a finger through his trouser zip.

The boy's mother later phoned up the school to complain after he told her he was only scratching his leg.

Ruling on the appeal today, Judge Gordon Kerr QC acknowledged there was no independent evidence in the case.

He identified inconsistencies in the pupil's account, including the exact nature of the alleged assault and being sick afterwards.

"He had at times been prone to tell stories to his mother," the judge added.

The appellant's version of events, however, was held to be consistent with what she previously said happened.

Allowing her appeal, Judge Kerr confirmed: "On the basis of the unreliability of the other witness and her good character, I cannot be sure beyond reasonable doubt of (her) guilt."

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