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
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future