Teacher is brain damaged in attack by violent teenage girl pupil

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A local authority which had no risk assessment in place to protect a school’s staff from violent pupils was today fined £104,000 after a teacher was seriously injured by a violent teenage girl.

The attack on senior teacher Gillian Stephens in which she was struck about the head with a mobile phone, meant she was brain damaged and had to give up work early at the school.

The attack was carried out on Friday June 17, 2016 at Putteridge High School in Luton.

Gillian Stephens was left severely disabled as a result of her injuries.

Luton Crown Court heard on Wednesday October 14 2020.

Luton Borough Council who at the time had been responsible for the running of school, was fined £104,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £60,000.

The council had pleaded guilty to a single offence of failing to discharge its duty to which it was subject to under health and safety legislation to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the safety at work of its employees, including Gillian Stephens.

The case against the local authority had been brought by the Health and safety Executive.

Judge Barbara Mensah hearing the case was told that at the time of the attack, Putteridge High School had no risk assessment measure in place to protect staff from violent pupils.

The girl was violent at home and caused disruption in the school and was refusing to work with an adolescent mental health team trying to help her.

The day before the attack she had disrupted an art class and had been sent to an isolation room within the school to work.

Returning to school the next day the girl should have been back in the isolation room, but instead made her way to an ordinary class.

The teacher in that class had called on Gillian Stephens to assist and it was after the other pupils had been ushered from the class that the girl launched the attack on her.

Judge Mensah was told that in 2015 a new behaviour policy was introduced at the school which said violence against a staff member would result in exclusion.

But the prosecution said nothing was undertaken to help the school avoid getting to that stage in the first place.

In 2016 it was said none of the staff had received recent health and safety training and nothing to help them assess the potential risk from aggressive pupils.

The court heard Gillian Stephens had asked for further training, but none was given to her.

Passing sentence Judge Mensah said “It was a very different school to the one now.”

She went on: “The school is no longer the responsibility of the local authority.”

Judge Mensah said she was satisfied the system in place back in 2016 to ensure the safety of staff was “inadequate”

But she said following the assault on the teacher, the authority had demonstrated a willingness to put proper risk assessment measures in place at the school along with training.

The pupil who attacked the teacher was later convicted assaulting her occasioning actual bodily harm.

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