Teacher jailed for confronting youth with pellet gun

A teacher who opened fire with a pellet gun after "yobbos" launched a campaign of vandalism against her family was jailed today.

Linda Walker, 48, who teaches children with behavioural problems, kept the gun in her underwear drawer for four months after her shed was burgled.

In August last year a confrontation with a gang of youths drove her to fire the weapon at the pavement near one teenager's feet.

Walker was found guilty of affray and possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence after a week-long trial at Manchester Crown Court last month.

Today the teacher was sentenced to six months in jail for possessing the firearm and one month in jail for affray.

Recorder Louis Browne told her the sentences would run concurrently. He said she would serve half the sentence and that the rest of the term would be suspended.

Walker, wearing a light pink skirt and white shirt, showed little emotion as her sentence was read out at Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court.

Her 56-year-old partner John Cavanagh, who was cleared of affray last month, showed no emotion either.

The incident occurred early on August 14, last year near to Walker's home in Hollyhouse Drive, Urmston, Greater Manchester, which she shares with Cavanagh and her twin sons.

At her trial, the court was told she had been receiving nuisance phone calls calling her 17-year-old son James a "poof".

The wing mirror of her other son Craig's car had also been broken off.

Walker told police her shed had been broken into, her garden ornaments had been thrown over the wall and fish had been stolen from her pond.

The final provocation came when Walker, who was head of year 11, in charge of food technology and careers co-ordinator at New Park School in Salford, saw a washing-up liquid container full of water had been emptied over her son's car.

She went outside to confront a group of youths who were standing about 250 yards away before returning to her home to fetch two guns.

In a phone call to the police, she said: "I'm going over to that field over the road, I've got an air rifle and a pistol and I'm going to shoot the vandals that come around here.

"I've got an air rifle and a pistol and I'm going to shoot them."

She told the court that she picked up her partner's Walther CP88 gas-powered pellet pistol, which he kept in her underwear drawer, and an air rifle belonging to her teenage son.

Walker left the house to confront the youths again, pointed the pistol at the feet of 18-year-old Robert McKiernan and then fired it at the road.

Walker told police she had left the house "like a madwoman possessed".

She said: "I feel totally, totally distressed after all these things that have been happening.

"I know you do your best, but the law is on the side of the yobbos, these criminals, not the victim."

Although the washing-up liquid bottle was not a serious incident in itself, it was "the straw that broke the camel's back", the court heard.

The teacher said she had tested the pistol before leaving her house, firing it at the top of the staircase.

She told police: "The pellet hit the top of the stairs. My son was standing on the landing so it was probably very foolish of me. It could have ricocheted off and hit him."

In mitigation defence barrister Farrhat Arshad told the court that Walker was a woman of good character who had "given her lot to society".

She said: "She acted in a manner which she now recognises was very unfortunate. A number of stressful circumstances came to a head on that day.

"The court is familiar with the acts of petty vandalism and theft that were caused to her property.

"Although they may appear as petty the effects on Mrs Walker were great.

"She thought her family, which was supposed to be safe, was being attacked."

Miss Arshad told the court that the 48-year-old was put under extra pressure when the school she taught at was put under special measures.

"It was very stressful for the teachers who taught there," she said. "She was subjected to stress as well as emotional disturbance."

During the trial a former head teacher at New Park School told the court that Walker had been praised by Ofsted inspectors every time there was an inspection.

Nigel Haslam said: "She was very professional and thorough and always punctual and prompt.

"She worked all the hours that came and provided the students with many opportunities to succeed."

Sentencing Walker to a total of six months in jail, the judge told her that she knew exactly what she was doing when she went back to get her guns.

He told her that the offences she had committed were "serious" and that her response to the incident had been "wholly disproportionate".

He said: "You assumed these individuals were likely to be the same individuals who had caused the vandalism to your property."

He added: "Both the weapons were capable of causing lethal injury."

Mr Cavanagh, a college lecturer in Salford, left the court refusing to comment on his partner's sentence.

A spokesman for Salford City Council said: "Linda Walker was suspended from her teaching post pending this police investigation and court action.

"Now legal proceedings are ended, any formal disciplinary action can also be concluded. This will be completed as quickly as possible."

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