A Halifax teaching assistant who taped a schoolgirl to a chair has been found guilty of cruelty - in a classroom bullying campaign that went on for months.
Rachael Regan, 43, was found guilty of taping the youngster to a chair in front of fellow pupils at the Halifax primary school, shutting her in a storeroom and tying her shoes to her with string.
Bradford Crown Court heard the child was humiliated and bullied in a catalogue of incidents including kicking her chair, goading her with a biscuit, sticking Post-it notes to her thumbs, shutting her doll in a desk drawer, tearing a picture of the child and addressing her with a nickname in a five-month ‘singling out’ bullying campaign.
“Her actions, where she singled out the victim, for whom she had spiteful contempt, demonstrate systematic ill-treatment which amounted to bullying,” prosecutor Simon Waley told the court.
Over the six-day trial, the jury heard how Regan, of Cousin Lane, Illingworth, Sellotaped the “fidgety” child to her chair as school teacher of 13 years Deborah McDonald looked on.
McDonald, 41, of Birks Hall Terrace, Halifax, was tried with Regan for the offence of cruelty but was found not guilty yesterday.
Asked about her classroom experience during police interview, the child replied to officers: “They strap me to the chair.
“She put it [Sellotape] all round the chair. It was hard to breathe,” the youngster told police shortly after the incident in January 2013.
Two members of school staff told the court the child was Sellotaped to the chair for at least 10 minutes and one support assistant said the girl’s arms were “fastened down by her sides with the Sellotape around her more than once”.
Mr Waley said Regan told her colleague: “She’ll not get up and wander around the classroom now.”
The victim’s mother, who cannot be named, said her “bubbly and outgoing” child who had always looked forward to going to school became increasingly“clingy” after a period of living with her grandparents.
“She began to make excuses not to go to school. I couldn’t understand it. Initially, I thought it was because of changes to our home life.”
On the day her daughter revealed she had been Sellotaped to her chair, the mother-of-two said her daughter came running out of school with tears rolling down her face.
“That day was so heart-breaking. She had tears streaming down her face and told me she never wanted to go back to school. She clung to me for dear life as she told me what had happened,” the youngster’s mum told the court.
Regan tied the youngster’s pumps to her legs with string and McDonald allegedly stood her on a chair as her classmates laughed, the court heard.
The defendant said her ‘too big’ pumps were tied to her legs because they were a health and safety hazard and to make a child look like a Roman soldier in the gladiator ‘criss-cross’ style of tying the string.
“Miss Regan put string around my shoes because my feet were too small for my shoes. It was horrible - everyone kept laughing,” the child told police.
The youngster said she felt “disgusted” after being shut in a “dump” of a storeroom by her teaching assistant.
In police interview, Regan admitted that she had stuck Post-it notes to the child’s thumbs for fun.
Asked why she did it, she told police: “I know it doesn’t look good. It looks absolutely ridiculous. I can’t believe it.”
She said: “We did it for fun, our fun, my fun.”
Mrs McDonald’s defence barrister, Steven Crossley, told the court that his defendant “didn’t do anything”.
“Of the three allegations - tying shoes with string, shutting the child in the storeroom and taping her to the chair - McDonald didn’t do anything.”
DCI Darren Minton, crime manager for Calderdale Police, said: “This person was employed in a position of trust and she broke that trust with her actions. Today’s conviction follows a lengthy and protracted investigation.
“Some people in the community have sought to question why such allegations were brought before the court. This conviction should send a loud and clear message that such behaviour from anyone is unacceptable, but particularly those employed in positions of significant trust.”
Regan, who lives with her teenage daughter will be sentenced next year.