Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stupid British prosecutors again

A science teacher who used a meat cleaver in classes to bring his subject to life for pupils endured '11 months of hell' after he was charged with bringing a bladed article to school.

Jonathan Abbott, 35, kept the kitchen implement in his desk to teach children about subjects including the splitting of the atom.

But he was reported to senior staff at Mildenhall College Academy in Suffolk when a supply teacher found the cleaver in an unlocked drawer while he was on holiday and the matter was reported to police.

Dr Abbott was suspended and forced to attend a series of hearings at court until the Crown Prosecution Service finally announced it was offering no evidence this week.

If convicted he could have faced up to four years in jail and a £5,000 fine.

Speaking from his home in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, today, he said: 'I am obviously relieved and happy. It has been 11 months of hell.

'I am somebody who loves my job and I have not been able to work, so it has been very difficult for me.

'I was charged with having a bladed article within a school – however, it is a legitimate defence if you have it for an educational purpose or you have authority.

'From day one I said it was for an educational purpose. I have been in crown court four times and magistrates court once. Throughout that time, nobody has looked at the case until now and said 'Actually, you are right'.

'The CPS admitted yesterday that they had reviewed the case and it showed there was significant evidence it was being used for an educational purpose throughout.'

Dr Abbott kept the cleaver at the school since beginning his first teaching job there in September 2012.

One demonstration he used it for was chopping an apple in half while discussing the splitting of the atom. Ipswich Crown Court also heard it was also employed to show how enzymes work.

Dr Abbott, who previously did scientific research and lectured at several universities, said he was taught to use a blade as a teaching aid when he was at teacher training college.

'I was doing a technique that was taught to me so there are hundreds and thousands of teachers doing exactly the same thing,' he claimed.

He is still facing possible disciplinary procedures and said he was unable to confirm whether the school knew he had the cleaver or how often he had used it.

He was charged with the potentially career-ending offence after police were contacted on October 23 last year.

After pleading not guilty to the charge on July 3 a nine-day trial was pencilled in at Ipswich Crown Court for the end of November this year.

But at a hearing on Monday, prosecutor Edward Renvoize said the Crown took the view that 'it was not in the public interest to continue with the prosecution' and recorder Ian Evans dismissed the case.

Asked if he wanted to say anything on behalf of his client, defence barrister Jonathan Goodman commented: 'There is a lot that could be said. It's clearly been incredibly stressful over a long period of time.'

Dr Abbott has suspended on full pay from the 1.087-pupil school, which was known as Mildenhall College of Technology before converting to an academy in 2013.

It was rated 'good' in its first Ofsted report in March this year, when it was praised for its 'imaginative development of the curriculum'.

The school is one of 18 sponsored by the Academy Transformation Trust, where a spokeswoman said she could not confirm if Dr Abbott would be allowed back to teach.  She said: 'We can confirm that legal proceedings have been concluded in this case.  'However, given that an internal process may be carried out within the academy we are unable to make any further comment.'

The school's chairman of governors, Ian Gray, refused to comment.

The Crown Prosecution Service did not respond to requests for comment.

A Suffolk Police spokesman confirmed that Dr Abbott had not been arrested and had been interviewed under caution. He added: 'A file was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service and it was their decision to bring a charge in the case.'

A mother of a pupil at the school who asked not to be named said: 'Dr Abbott is a fantastic teacher who tries to make lessons interesting.

'It is disgusting that he was charged with a criminal offence and dragged into court. I am delighted that common sense has prevailed and the charge has been dropped.'

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: 'It seems a bit heavy handed to have charged this teacher with a criminal offence and taken him to court. They could have given him some sort of warning inside the school.'

Original report here

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