Headteacher attacked boy with fish, court is told

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The Independent Online

A headteacher has appeared in court charged with assaulting an 11-year-old pupil by trying to force a fish head into his mouth.

David Watkins, of Old Catton, Norwich, denied assaulting the boy at a school in the city in November last year.

Magistrates in Norwich were told yesterday that the incident happened while Mr Watkins was trying to make the boy put the fish head in a bin. Joe Ghirardello, for the prosecution, said six people ­ four children and two adults, including a teacher ­ would give evidence for the prosecution.

In a video interview played to the court yesterday, the boy said: "He got me in a tight headlock. I found it hard to breathe. The whole playground was there ­ like 250 children watching." He said Mr Watkins had used words such as "animal" and "pathetic creature" to him during the incident. "I gritted my teeth and it [the fish head] went through my teeth into my mouth," he added. "Afterwards he [Mr Watkins] said 'you had better work hard now'. I was a bit upset and sad."

The pupil, who cannot be named for legal reasons (nor can the school), admitted he was "not the best boy" but said of the incident: "I think it is completely out of order." He said the assault had left no marks but he was "a bit sore for a little while".

Mr Ghirardello said Mr Watkins, who denies the assault, had given the police a different version of the interview, saying he had taken hold of the boy's hand and bent the child towards the fish head, which was on the ground. The boy then picked it up and put it in the bin. Mr Watkins accepted there was physical contact when he held the boy's hand.

Mr Ghirardello said: "For some reason the boy came into possession on his way to school of a fish head ... He showed it to other pupils and to a teacher ... who told him to dispose of it."

He added that Mr Watkins had seen the boy with the fish head at break later that morning, and had told him to put it in the bins. After that, he said: "Mr Watkins shouted at the boy using phrases such as 'pick it up, you pathetic creature' and 'if you cannot pick it up I am going to shove it down your throat'."

Mr Ghirardello said witnesses then described how Mr Watkins assaulted the boy. "Mr Watkins took hold of [the boy] in what is described as a headlock, [the boy] stating that he found it hard to breathe. And then he held the boy's hand within his and the fish head within the boy's hand then tried to force the fish head into the boy's mouth."

The case continues.

* A teacher who permanently scarred a man he knocked to the floor and punched and kicked in a pub brawl has been given permission to carry on teaching by the profession's disciplinary body.

James Bashford, 27, a design and technology teacher from Bisley in Stroud, Gloucestershire, was sentenced to eight months in prison for violent conduct in June 2001.

The General Teaching Council was told in Birmingham yesterday that the rugby enthusiast and his brother, Robert, were celebrating James's 25th birthday when they set upon their victim ­ causing him head injuries requiring 36 stitches.

Tony Cuthbert, chairman of the professional conduct committee, said members had taken into account Bashford's qualities as a teacher and his previously unblemished record.

However, they gave him a two-year conditional registration order requiring him to maintain good disciplinary standards in his personal and professional life.