Teacher Peter Harvey not guilty over dumbbell assault on pupil

Teacher Peter Harvey not guilty over dumbbell assault on pupil
# 01 May 2010 03:41 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. A teacher who beat a boy’s head with a dumbbell while shouting “die, die, die” walked free from court yesterday after being cleared of attempted murder because he was mentally unwell and had been tormented by the pupil, APA reports quoting “Times Online”.
In a case that raised doubts about whether there was sufficient help available for stressed teachers struggling with disruptive children, Peter Harvey, 50, was cleared after the jury deliberated for little more than an hour. He was also cleared of grievous bodily harm with intent.
The four-day case has also highlighted the problems caused by mobile-phone cameras and the possibility that children are more likely to misbehave in class if they know that they are being filmed. Only now can it be revealed that Judge Michael Stokes, QC, who welcomed the not guilty verdict as “common sense”, had questioned why the attempted murder charge had been pursued in the first place.
The science teacher admitted grievous bodily harm without intent. The 14-year-old pupil, a known troublemaker, had accepted that Harvey, who had struggled with mental problems for three years, appeared “possessed” when he snapped after the child told him to “f*** off”. The boy, part of a handful of children trying to goad the tutor as they secretly filmed him at All Saints Roman Catholic School in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, suffered a fractured skull and bleeding to the brain.
The judge said that Harvey would not be jailed for grievous bodily harm. Instead, the teacher, who was suspended from his post and spent eight months on remand, faces a community order intended to tackle his problems.
While the boy’s family stormed out of Nottingham Crown Court as the verdicts were delivered, Harvey simply bowed his head. He later apologised for the “pain and damage” he had caused.
The school will now decide whether Harvey will keep his job. Former pupils welcomed the verdict, claiming that Harvey had been an “outstanding and charismatic” teacher. One, who is now a teacher, said that Harvey had been her role model and the reason she joined the profession.
For much of his 16 years at the school, Harvey, known affectionately as the “Nutty Professor”, was so dedicated that he arrived at 6.30am to prepare class experiments. Three years ago he was pushed over by one pupil, knocked into a hedge by another and then received a menacing visit at home from another student. He told colleagues that classes were getting out of control and that he feared he would hurt someone.
The school advised him to seek help and he visited his doctor, who diagnosed severe stress and depression.
Harvey’s home life was also difficult. He had struggled to help his wife, Samantha, to cope with her depression after she quit the teaching profession. They have two daughters, one of whom has Asperger’s syndrome.
In July last year, a few children in the physics lesson in Year 9, aged 13 to 14, planned to secretly film themselves “winding up” Harvey, who had just returned from five months off with stress. They decided to find out what it would take to make him snap and the recording would then be passed to other children.
After one girl on the film warned that her teacher was having a mental breakdown, Harvey rained down blows on the boy’s head with a 3kg dumbbell. He was led away making a guttural howling noise, and was later seen headbutting a wall at the police station because he wanted to “destroy horrible me”. He told police that he thought he had killed the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
“It was like I was just watching on TV. I had no emotion. No thoughts. I did not know what happened,” he said.
During legal arguments, the judge said that “there is strong evidence to suggest that the way Mr Harvey was acting at the time, he did not appreciate what he was doing. It does seem to me that by continuing with this case the Crown may discover their attitude rebounds on them.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the teachers’ union NASUWT, called last night for an inquiry into how technology, such as mobile-phone cameras, could encourage children to “play to the camera” and behave badly in class.
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