Electronic Telegraph, August 21, 1999

Close eye to be kept on children of smack teacher
By Richard Savill

THE family of a teacher convicted of assaulting his eight-year-old daughter by smacking her in a dentist's waiting room has been placed under a supervision order after social workers said they feared the offence could be repeated.

The 48-year-old father, who became the first person in Britain to be convicted of smacking his child, accused the authorities of conducting a witch hunt against his family after the order was imposed on Thursday. The order means his family will be visited regularly by social workers who will monitor the welfare of the girl and her two brothers, aged six and one.

Joseph Beltrami, the family's solicitor, said yesterday that he had lodged an appeal against the order imposed by the Children's Panel at Bellshill, Lanarks. The decision was "totally unnnecessary". He said: "The only reason the social workers could give was that the smacking might happen again. That is mere speculation. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest it might happen again."

A sheriff ruled in May that the daughter had been the victim of "unnecessary suffering" when her father pulled down her trousers and pants and put her across his knee after she refused to have a tooth extracted. The incident at Motherwell Health Centre, Lanarks, was witnessed on Christmas Eve by staff who reported him to police. In June he returned to the court where he was admonished by Sheriff Dan Russell, who then referred the case to the Children's Panel.

The father's decision to fight the supervision order and his appeal against his conviction for assault means that his future as a teacher is unlikely to be decided by the General Teaching Council for several weeks. The father, who cannot be named because identity of his child is prohibited by Scottish law, is waiting to hear whether he can keep his job as a primary teacher following his conviction.

Education officials have confirmed that the teacher, now restricted to library duties at his school, was previously disciplined for "prodding and poking" pupils. Asked about the verbal and written warnings the teacher received for his conduct, Mr Beltrami said: "He thinks the matter was exaggerated and that little happened. There was one incident and it didn't really add up to very much. It wasn't an assault or anything like that. There was no question of ill-treatment. It is perfectly natural for a teacher to prod a pupil if, for example, they are delaying in doing something."

Mr Beltrami said he did not expect the prodding incident to be taken into consideration by the General Teaching Council when they consider his future. "That has been dealt with and disposed of so that cannot be resurrected."

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