UPDATE: Court hears details of cruelty by Halifax teachers to child

Rachael Regan and Deborah McDonald at an earlier hearing at Calderdale Magistrates' Court. Picture by Guzelian
Rachael Regan and Deborah McDonald at an earlier hearing at Calderdale Magistrates' Court. Picture by Guzelian

Graphic details of ill treatment of a pupil were read out in court today as the trial opened against two members of staff at a Halifax school accused of cruelty.

The primary school teacher and teaching assistant, Deborah McDonald and Rachael Regan, are charged with ten counts of cruelty on a person under 16 including taping the child to a chair.

McDonald, 41, of Birks Hall Terrace, Halifax, and Regan, 43, of Cousin Lane, Illingworth, Halifax, are also charged with tying the child’s shoes with string; kicking her chair; shutting her in a storeroom; sticking Post-It notes on her; goading her with a biscuit; hiding the girl’s doll; tearing her picture; making her stand on a chair whilst other children laughed at her and referring to her as “the class clown”.

The defendants appeared together at Bradford Crown Court for the first day of their trial where they entered a not guilty plea.

The court heard how the child, whose behaviour could be “challenging”, was separated from her peers and sat at a desk next to McDonald’s.

Prosecutor Simon Waley told the court teacher McDonald had made a calendar with images of the victim alongside derogatory comments which she shared with Regan and other members of staff.

Nine of the 12 months on the calendar featured the child and one image showed a picture of the girl with her doll with a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ caption which referred to the victim as the beast.

September’s caption stated “off with her head.”

Teaching assistant Regan stuck Post-It notes to her thumbs to prevent her from sucking them and tore up a photograph of the victim which had been on display on the classroom wall, the court heard.

The defendants goaded the victim over a biscuit and boasted about how “delicious” they tasted when they and other children, who had completed their homework, were eating them.

Mr Waley told the court the mother’s child said she noticed her child had become increasingly “clingy” and informed the school the morning after her daughter disclosed she had been tied to her chair with Sellotape.

The girl told her mum she could not move and struggled to breath as the rest of the onlooking class laughed. The girl was released from the chair when another member of staff walked in on the incident.

The incident was then reported to the police and McDonald and Regan were subsequently arrested and questioned, on February 6, 2013.

In interview, Regan told police the victim was a “cheeky monkey” who got more attention than other pupils due to problems at home.

She said she stuck Post-It notes to the girl to help her and tied string to her shoes because they were too big and said her actions were done without mallice.

On the day of the bullying incident involving the child being tied to the chair with Sellotape, the court heard the tape was wrapped around the youngster more than once,

Mr Waley told the jury that Regan had said to police that the victim had been “fidgeting” when she told her light-heartedly that she would have to tie her to the chair and put the sticky tape on the back of the chair. She said the child was laughing at the time, the court heard.

Mr Waley told the court a teaching colleague of the defendant’s saw the child taped to the chair.

McDonald, who was present when the child was taped to the chair by Regan, told police she thought the calendar she had produced and distributed to staff would make people smile.

Mr Waley said: “Their actions, where they singled out the victim for whom they had spiteful contempt, demonstrate systematic ill-treatment, amounted to bullying which caused the child unnecessary suffering and distress.”

Judge Neil Davey told the jury that both defendants are accountable for all charges as they both had a responsibility of care for the child.

The charges relate to a number of incidents that allegedly took place at the Halifax primary school between September 1, 2012 and January 26, 2013.

The case continues tomorrow.