Teacher's 'living hell' ends as CPS drops assault case

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The Independent Online

A senior teacher with more than 30 years' experience who was accused of assaulting a pupil said she had been through a "living hell" for 18 months as the case against her was thrown out.

Judi Sunderland, 56, of Eccleshill, Bradford, was accused of using too much force when she restrained the 13-year-old pupil in a corridor outside her office at a Bradford secondary school in December 2003.

She walked free from the city's Magistrates' Court yesterday after the Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence against her in relation to the charge of common assault.

Ms Sunderland, who has been suspended since the incident 18 months ago, said her treatment had been unbelievable and that she was still in a state of disbelief and shock. She said: "It's been a living hell. I was hung out to dry for 18 months. I haven't been able to plan anything or get on with my life. I was a teacher with 33 years' experience and an exemplary record.

"Anybody with less strength of character might have been in a much worse situation than I am. I made a professional decision in a professional manner. I went through 18 months of hell for doing my job. I'm certainly not going to be able to put it all behind me. Now there will be an internal inquiry in school and I'll have to relive all this."

She said she was planning to have a party and was uncertain whether she'd ever be able to return to teaching - her career for 30 years.

"If I'm honest with you, I'm not sure it would be possible to carry on teaching. I'm of retirement age, but had this happened to a young teacher ... that's what's so awful," she said. "Somewhere in all this it's been forgotten that I was the person who was attacked. No one ever said I've done anything to him, like hitting him, it's just that they said I used too much restraint, which I disagree with."

Ms Sunderland said she took the job as an advanced skills teacher at the school, teaching health and social science, in September 2003, just three months before the incident happened. She said she wanted to help improve the school's record when she took the job, but was was left feeling "very isolated" after the school offered her no support.

She said the only contact with the school was a letter suspending her. But she praised the "excellent" support from her family, friends and her teaching union, the NUT. An NUT spokeswoman said: "One has to question why this case has even been allowed to use up tax payer's money and leave a valuable teacher on suspension for so long."

A West Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said she could not comment on cases that had fallen through.