Mother’s anger as Capital teacher convicted of assault

Gavin Atkinson leaves court yesterday. Picture: Ciaran Donnelly
Gavin Atkinson leaves court yesterday. Picture: Ciaran Donnelly

THE mother of a 13-year-old boy who was assaulted by a teacher at a high school in the Capital has accused the city council of failing to deal transparently with her complaints about the incident.

She spoke out after Gavin Atkinson, 58, of Crocketford in Dumfries, was found guilty of repeatedly pushing her son on the body and pressing his body against a doorway with his knee.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court also heard Atkinson told a girl, 13, that he could see her underpants.

The teacher had denied the charges, which relate to events occurring between August 1 and December 24, 2013.

Prosecution lawyers dropped a charge accusing Atkinson of directing verbal and written sexual communications to an adult learner at the school.

And he was found not guilty of making comments of a sexual nature to the 13-year-old boy.

Speaking after the verdicts, the mother said officials failed to keep her informed on the progress of a complaint about the assault and its effect on her child. She said her son had been “crushed” by the experience and that he had lost two years of schooling which he would never get back.

And she accused the education department of failing to provide support to youngsters affected by the episode.

“My son was scared of being in school,” she said. “There was never any help or counselling for the kids.

“It’s all been kept hush-hush and swept under the carpet. Who’s going to answer for it now? Why was he teaching those kids?

“Instead of it all being swept under the carpet, things need to be open. I was never updated after lodging my complaint and that is what I’ve said to the council. If someone puts a complaint in, I say to the department, ‘why not update the person on what is happening with it?’”

The court had heard that the boy had been told to wait behind at the end of the school day for a period of detention, but tried to leave the classroom to meet his mother waiting in the car park.

The boy, now 16, said Atkinson stopped him from leaving.

He said: “As I tried to walk past, he pushed me. I tried to get past, but he pushed me again. I tried to crawl through his legs, but he grabbed me by the shoulders and chest. I remember him saying, ‘You are not going to move 18 stone’.”

He added that Atkinson used his knee to jam his shoulder on the door. The boy said he had gone to the Sick Kids hospital and his arm was put in a sling.

As for the remarks to the girl, Atkinson said she was being disruptive, showing off and refusing to come down after opening a window.

“I thought I might embarrass her by saying I could see her knickers and she got down and sat down,” he said.

Finding Atkinson guilty of the two charges, Sheriff Michael O’Grady QC, said: “I find Mr Atkinson’s demeanour strangely and wholly unconvincing or credible.”

Sheriff O’Grady described pupils who gave evidence as being convincing and credible. He added that they had been prepared to admit certain aspects of their behaviour.

Political figures said they would be raising the incidents and the council’s response with city bosses.

Councillor Mike Bridgman, SNP member for Portobello and Craigmillar, said: “I have heard the parent of one of the children involved was totally disgusted by the way the department handled her complaint. I will be taking this up with the chief executive. I am glad that the court has dealt with the matter and that in no shape or form will we continue to have anyone involved in incidents of this nature being employed in our schools.”

A council spokesman said: “The safety and welfare of our children is paramount. The actions of this former teacher were totally unacceptable and as a result he went through a disciplinary process which resulted in him being dismissed from the council. The council regrets his abhorrent behaviour and any distress caused to pupils is deeply regrettable.”

Sentence on Atkinson was deferred until May 27 for the preparation of a social work report, and he was ordered to register as a sex offender.