Barnton Nursery owner cleared of assaulting child

Edinburgh Sheriff Court. File picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh Sheriff Court. File picture: Ian Georgeson
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THE owner of an Edinburgh children’s nursery, accused of assaulting a four-year-old boy by seizing him by the body, dragging him from under a table and forcing him onto a chair, has been cleared of the charge.

Lesley Bothwell, 55, of Letham, Fife, had pled not guilty to the offence allegedly committed at the Barnton Nursery in Queensferry Road on July 2 last year.

After hearing from only two witnesses at the trial in Edinburgh Sheriff Court today Fiscal Depute, Iain Batho, said he was leading no further evidence. Ms Bothwell’s defence counsel, Shelagh McCall QC, asked for a not guilty verdict. Sheriff Gordon Liddle concurred.

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The court heard that the four-year-old had crawled under a table, refusing to come out. Ms Bothwell had grabbed his leg, pulled him out and tried to get him to sit on a seat. Rebecca Stewart, 22, a trainee at the nursery, said Ms Bothwell had put her arms round him in a bear hug as he began kicking out with his legs.

Ms McCall put it to her: “He was having a pretty serious temper tantrum”. Ms Stewart replied “Yes” and also agreed that the boy’s parents had been in touch with the nursery about their son’s “social problems”. Ms McCall suggested: “He was a wee boy who had a lot of tantrums and some were pretty alarming. Thrashing around and kicking a member of staff”. “Yes” was the reply.

Ruth Aitken, 23, a lead practitioner at the nursery, said that during a snack break some of the children were getting “quite boisterous” and getting out of their seats. The four-year-old, she said, had crawled under a table which had a cloth on it and a wormery. The boy was pulling at the tablecloth and there was a danger that the wormery would fall off. Ms Bothwell had pulled him out by his ankle at which time he was kicking, shouting, screaming and punching.

The boy’s temper tantrums were a relative common occurrence, she said “If there was something he did not want to do. If he was not the first person in the line and if he did not get his own way”.

His parents, she added, had suggested that he should not be allowed to get his own way. She agreed with Ms McCall that it was accepted practice that a child should be restrained it there was a danger of injury to themselves or other children.