Stressed teachers are 'ticking time bombs'

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The Independent Online

A teacher spared jail after beating a 14-year-old pupil with a dumbbell warned today that "lots of teachers are ticking time bombs" because of stress at school.

Peter Harvey, 50, attacked the boy at All Saints' Roman Catholic School in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, after repeatedly being taunted by pupils in his science class.

Last month jurors at Nottingham Crown Court took just an hour to clear him of attempted murder or intending to cause serious injury, and yesterday he was given a two-year community order for causing grevious bodily harm without intent.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Mr Harvey said: "I love kids and I'm the last person who would ever want to harm a child. I didn't make a decision to hurt the boy, it just happened."

The married father of two added: "If it could happen to me it could happen to anyone.

"There are lots of teachers who are ticking time bombs. I know teachers who because of stress can't hold a cup of coffee or are too frightened to cross the road.

"It could happen again and probably will if something isn't done."

He also offered an apology to the boy, who was left with a fractured skull and partial loss of hearing after the attack last July.

"I hope he is able to forgive me or he will never move on with his life. I'd just like to say I was so sorry," he told the paper.

Mr Harvey bludgeoned the boy with a 6.6lb (3kg) dumbbell while shouting "Die, die, die".

But the jury accepted his barrister's claims that his pupils had driven him over the edge and he did not know what he was doing when the youngster, now 15 and a known troublemaker, told him to "f*** off".

It emerged during the four-day trial that pupils at the school were trying to wind up the science teacher so his reaction could be caught on a camcorder being used secretly by a girl in the class.

The footage was then to be passed around the school as a way of "humiliating" him.

The attack came just weeks after Mr Harvey returned from a four month lay-off for stress.

He said his memory of the incident was "surreal", adding: "(It's) a memory without any emotion or feeling or thought in my head."

Passing sentence yesterday, Judge Michael Stokes QC said: "On any view this is a tragic case.

"You are a thoroughly decent man and for well over 20 years you have been a dedicated and successful school teacher.

"The incident involving the 14-year-old boy whom you assaulted was brought about, I have no doubt, by a number of factors combining together and producing in you a quite disproportionate reaction to misbehaviour, abuse and rank disobedience by him and some of his classmates.

"In previous years you would have handled this easily and professionally but in July of last year you were far from well.

"You were undoubtedly suffering from depression, stress and a serious lack of confidence."

Mr Harvey, who now faces a disciplinary hearing, will not be allowed to work with children again.

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