A CLASSROOM assistant who carried out a five-month campaign of bullying against a seven-year-old pupil who was taped to her chair and shut in a storeroom has been found guilty of child cruelty.
Rachael Regan, 43, “singled out and bullied” the girl at a school in the Calderdale area of West Yorkshire, Bradford Crown Court heard.
The catalogue of incidents against the pupil, who is now nine, also included sticking post-it notes to her thumbs, tying her shoes on with string, calling her a nickname, kicking her chair, goading her with a biscuit, hiding her doll and tearing up her photograph.
A jury of four men and eight women took under four hours to find Regan guilty today.
A teacher, Deborah McDonald, 41, was cleared of the same offence.
Regan will be sentenced next year.
Judge Neil Davey QC told Regan she will not go to prison when she is sentenced on January 8.
The judge said he was concerned about the length of time between the time of the incident and the trial.
He said the young girl concerned had waited “a quarter of her lifetime” to give evidence about what had happened and that Regan had spent more than a year on bail before she was charged.
Judge Davey said that, whatever his initial thoughts about sentencing, these delays had convinced him that custody was not appropriate.
He said: “The position is now that whatever sentence I pass it will not be a custodial sentence.”
Regan said “Thank you” to the judge, who gave her bail until the sentencing hearing.
McDonald held her head in her hands after she was cleared and the two women hugged after they left the dock.
They left the court building together with supporters.
Prosecutor Simon Waley told the week-long trial an investigation was launched by the school and the police after the girl told her mother a teacher had tied her to a chair with sticky tape so she could not move.
He said: “She said that the class had been laughing at her and that she was the ‘class clown’.”
Mr Waley said: “She said that Mrs Regan put it all around the chair and it was hard breathing. She said that she couldn’t get out to reach her things. She said that the whole class were laughing.”
The girl’s mother said the moment her daughter told her a teaching assistant had taped her to a chair was “heartbreaking”.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the jury the young girl “clung” to her “for dear life” with tears streaming down her face after the incident.
She said: “(My daughter) just came rushing out and hugged me and tears were just rolling down her face.
“It was just so heartbreaking to see her like that because (she) is so bubbly and outgoing and I have never seen my daughter so upset. She just clung to me for dear life.”
She told the court: “(My daughter) said one of the teachers had Sellotaped her to the chair and that all her class friends were laughing at her.
She continued: “She said ‘They all thought I was funny. I was the clown. They all laughed at me’.”
The court heard that the defendants denied ever bullying the girl when they were interviewed by the police and described some of the incidents as “fun” and “a joke”.
Mr Waley said: “In relation to some of (the incidents), the defence accept that they occurred but say that they were not malicious but rather well-intentioned and good-humoured incidents in which (the girl) had been a participant in the humour.”
Giving evidence, Ms McDonald told the jury she had not deliberately ill-treated or humiliated the girl.
The teacher, from Halifax, said: “(She) is a lovely little girl. We got along very well together, I liked her, she liked me, I was very happy to be her teacher. She made me smile on so many occasions. I have many happy memories of her.”