A teaching assistant at a Peterborough special school who assaulted a pupil on a school trip sobbed and trembled in the dock as he was jailed for the attack
Gary Speight (50) was meant to be looking after the youngsters from The Phoenix School as they went on a class outing - but on the minibus, Speight assaulted one of the young lads, bending his fingers back and putting his arm in a lock behind his seat. He even held an insulin pen to the youngster’s leg, saying ‘if this had a needle, you’d be asleep.’
The youngster has a number of acute educational and physical needs and was unable to shout out to stop the assaults - but other teachers on board spotted what had happened and reported it.
Speight denied assaulting the boy, accusing the teachers of lying about what happened, but he was convicted of common assault at a trial last month.
On Friday, Speight, of Mill Lane, Whaplode, appeared at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court, where he was jailed for 10 weeks by District Judge Ken Sheraton.
Speight, who had worked for the school for nine years before he was sacked as a result of his actions, was visibly shaken through the entire hearing as he sat in the dock, and needed to be handed a tissue to wipe away the tears by court staff as Charles Corbett, prosecuting, outlined the facts of the case.
Mr Corbett said the boy had been sitting in front of Speight on the minibus. He said: “The boy would reach behind him and pinch the defendant on the leg.
“The defendant then grabbed his arm and pulled it back, putting it into a lock.
“A few minutes later the victim again reached behind him and pinched the defendant’s leg.
“The defendant grabbed him by the wrist, and bent his fingers back.
“Other teachers saw the look on the victim’s face, and saw him rubbing his wrist.
“Shortly after, the victim reached behind again. This time the defendant reached into his bag and pulled out an insulin pen. He held it against his leg and said ‘if this had a needle, you’d be asleep.’”
Mr Corbett read a statement from the boy’s mum, who said the assault had had a big impact on the family.
The boy’s mum, who was in court for the sentencing, said in her statement: “Since the incident his behaviour has changed. He has become very detached, and needs physical assurance, otherwise he becomes very distressed. He can harm himself and others in these episodes.”
The statement added; “It has caused a large amount of anxiety at home.”
Matthew Cullen, defending, said the conviction would have a devastating impact on Speight, and said Judge Sheraton could impose a community order as a sentence.
He said: “There are significant mitigating factors for the case. He is effectively of good character.
“This was an isolated incident. He has worked for nine years in the same job, and it has never happened before, and it won’t happen again.”
Mr Cullen said Speight had volunteered for a number of charities helping disabled children over the years, after his brother died aged 23 after suffering from cerebral palsy.
Along with the jail sentence, Judge Sheraton ordered Speight to pay £250 compensation to his victim.
He said the offence had been a clear breach of trust against a very vulnerable victim, which meant only a custodial sentence was appropriate.
Because Speight continued to deny the charge, Judge Sheraton said he was unable to suspend the sentence.
Speight blew a kiss to his wife, who was sitting in the public gallery, as he was lead away to start his sentence.
Charlotte Whysall, headteacher at The Phoenix School, said: “We have supported and cooperated with the police investigation at every stage and we are satisfied with the court’s judgement.
“As soon as we were made aware of the incident we took immediate action by suspending the member of staff in question and reporting the assault to the police and the city council.
“We have, and will continue to support the young person involved and their family.
“As a result of the guilty verdict the member of staff has been permanently dismissed.”