Head guilty over pupil's fall from roof

A headteacher was found guilty today of failing to take reasonable care for the safety of his students after a pupil fell through a skylight.

John Summerfield, 64, took a group of "slightly inebriated" sixth-formers on to the roof of their school when Joel Murray, then 18, tumbled 8ft (2.4m) into a corridor and fractured his skull.



The teenager also broke his ribs, perforated an eardrum and suffered permanent damage to his eye in the fall at Sacred Heart Catholic College in Crosby, Merseyside, Liverpool Crown Court heard.









It took the jury of six men and six women less than two hours to reach its decision and Summerfield bowed his head as the guilty verdict was read out to the court.



The accident happened in August 2008 during an evening party the school had thrown to celebrate the students' A-level results which had been released that day.



Summerfield warned the students not to walk near the roof light, but the jury agreed with the prosecution that he should never have taken them there at all.



He was one of the only keyholders for a locked door which he opened to allow around 10 of his pupils through to gain access to the roof.



The prosecution argued that the locked door was an appropriate safety measure and, when that was opened, the principal no longer demonstrated "reasonable care".



Summerfield wanted to show them the results of some renovations to the building, and one witness told investigating officers he told her he wanted to give them "a once-in-a-lifetime experience" that they would be able to "talk about with their grandchildren".



During the proceedings, Kevin Donnelly, prosecuting, said: "Nobody was drunk but it is possible they were slightly affected by drink, possibly slightly inebriated.



"Mr Summerfield took a group into an area which was normally out of bounds. The decision was his and it was his alone.



"The very act of taking the students to that area was a breach of his duty of care. He failed to give appropriate consideration to the risks involved."



The barrister described the party as a "restrained affair" and said the students had consumed no more than "one or two" bottles of beer or glasses of wine.



Judge Gilmour QC told the panel: "This was a moment of folly."



He added: "He is a very caring teacher. He was doing what he thought would increase the enjoyment of the evening for some of the pupils and, in doing that, he didn't really think about the safety aspects of taking them on to the roof."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before