ANGRY parents have welcomed a guilty verdict on a Borders teacher who assaulted five young primary school pupils over a 14-month period.
The parents claimed Scottish Borders Council swept the complaints under the carpet during an investigation and were told the classroom attacks dating back five years had not taken place.
But they persisted with their complaints and have finally been vindicated following a trial at Selkirk Sheriff Court this week.
A trial involving 60-year-old Linda McCall, from Earlston, had taken place last July but Sheriff Roderick Flinn ruled at the time there was no case to answer.
This was after a submission by McCall’s defence team on the fourth day of the trial and the teacher walked free from court.
However, the Crown successfully appealed that ruling and the trial resumed at Selkirk Sheriff Court on Wednesday and Thursday when McCall was found guilty of five charges of assaulting five pupils aged between five and seven years old at the time, and one charge of threatening or abusive behaviour between August 2016 and October 2017.
One assault on a five-year-old girl involved McCall seizing the child by her body and pushing her onto a chair.
Sentence has been deferred until July for the production of background reports.
The parents are now planning civil proceedings against McCall’s employers Scottish Borders Council following the guilty verdict.
One of the parents said: “Our children are finally getting the justice they deserve and she is finally being held accountable.
“For the entire year she taught my son, he didn’t want to go to school.
“He had been happy but all that changed.
“He’s non-verbal and wasn’t able to tell me why he didn’t want to go.
“It was obvious that something was wrong and it breaks my heart that he was trying so hard to tell me that he was being harmed.
“When it started to come out there had been allegations made against a teacher, all of the parents had a meeting with the heads of education at Scottish Borders Council – we were told she had not harmed a hair on their heads.
“The council investigation that followed found the accusations against her had all been a misunderstanding.
“They did everything they could to sweep this under the carpet.
“This had a lasting effect on my child and many of the others who went to that school. Their innocence was taken away by that woman.
“I hope there will now be an inquiry into Scottish Borders Council for the way it conducted itself throughout this.”
Solicitor Marina Urie, of Thompsons Solicitors’ Borders office, who represents all of the affected families in the civil matter, said: “My clients welcome the verdict.
“They see it as the first positive step on a long road to justice.
“I have now been instructed by them to raise separate civil proceedings at the Court of Session in Edinburgh where the human cost of these shocking events will be assessed.”
A spokesman for the Crown office explained the legal background to the case after it had appeared the trial had collapsed last July.
He said: “This was a case in which the Crown successfully appealed the decision of the Sheriff to uphold the submission of no case to answer.
“It was then remitted back to the Sheriff.”
A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council said: “The safety and wellbeing of young people in our schools is paramount.
“Any concerns are treated very seriously and there are robust policies and procedures in place to ensure matters are properly addressed.
“We cannot comment on individual employee-related matters.”