Charges against lip-tape teacher dropped

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The Independent Online

A teacher accused of taping the lips of pupils together to keep them quiet walked free from court yesterday after a judge dismissed an assault charge against her, following evidence that the incident had been part of a game.

A teacher accused of taping the lips of pupils together to keep them quiet walked free from court yesterday after a judge dismissed an assault charge against her, following evidence that the incident had been part of a game.

District Judge John Woollard said that the case should never have been brought to court and described the incident as "clearly no more than a bit of light-hearted fun in the classroom".

Bridget Tarwala, 53, was accused of assaulting a nine-year-old girl at a junior school in Basingstoke, Hampshire, when she taped her lips together along with those of other children in an attempt to keep them quiet.

After struggling to control the class during an art lesson on 26 February, Ms Tarwala, who was working as a supply teacher, asked one of the children to fetch some Sellotape in order to tape their lips together, Alton magistrates' court heard.

James Burnham, for the prosecution, told the court that the incident had caused "distress" to one of the children, to whom the charge related.

But during cross-examination by Rachel Robertson yesterday, the child admitted that she had willingly lined up to have tape placed on her lips and said that it had been fun.

The court heard that Ms Tarwala had given the class at Worting County Junior School a number of warnings to be quiet before jokingly asking: "Who thinks they have been noisy, who thinks they need a bit of sticky tape?"

One boy laughingly replied: "Yes, Miss, I've been noisy, I need some tape." The girl told police that she had been asked by Ms Tarwala to fetch some Sellotape and one by one, the children had had sticky tape put on their mouths, which she said they thought was "funny".

Miss Robertson went on to ask the girl whether it was "something you wanted to do".

The girl replied: "Yes."

Following the girl's evidence, Mr Burnham told the court that the Crown would not be offering any further evidence.

Dismissing the charges, the judge told Ms Tarwala: "It seems to me this prosecution has not reflected the girl's interests in forcing a nine-year-old to come to court and give evidence and for you to have the indignity of being arrested by the police. All of that over an incident which was clearly no more than a bit of light-hearted fun in the classroom."

But the father of the girl condemned the judge's decision as "ridiculous" and defended the Crown Prosecution Service for having brought the case to court. "I don't know quite what videotape evidence he listened to but it was completely different to the one I saw," he said.

He expressed horror that a judge would condone a teacher such treatment. "I really am absolutely amazed that a judge ... can sit there and say this is a condonable action. It really is ridiculous."

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