Teacher gets Community Payback for assault, sexual comment

Edinburgh Sheriff Court. File picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh Sheriff Court. File picture: Ian Georgeson
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A FORMER science teacher at an Edinburgh school, who assaulted a 13-year-old boy pupil by repeatedly pushing him on the body and pressing his body against a doorway with his knee to his injury and made sexual comments to a 13-year-old girl pupil, has been placed on a Community Payback Order for 12 months and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

Gavin Atkinson, 58, of Crocketford, Dumfries, had denied the charges which occurred between August 1 and December 24, 2013, but was found guilty after trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in April. Sentence was deferred until today for a background report.

Sheriff Michael O’Grady QC told Atkinson: “You have been convicted of offences which, in themselves, are perhaps not the most serious of their type, but they do of course occur in a context where they represent a serious breach of trust”. Sheriff O’Grady said he was persuaded by the evidence and by the report that in relation to the sexual offence charge Atkinson’s motivation was not sexual.


The Sheriff added: “All in all, your behaviour appears to have been some misguided and bizarre attempt to control children, who themselves have been honest enough to admit their behaviour could be challenging”.

He told Atkinson that was, however, no excuse. “Parents send their children to school expecting them to the safe and treated properly and respectfully by their teachers. You have failed dismally in that respect”.

Sheriff O’Grady told Atkinson that, in sentencing him, he took into account what had happened to him because of his behaviour. “You have lost your career and lost your marriage. That is significant punishment”.

The court had heard the boy was 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. “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 13-year girl, the boy said: “I didn’t like some of the things he was saying to the girl. He told her he knew the colour of her underpants and she ran away out of the room”. When it was put to him that the girl had been prancing around and mucking about and that the teacher had told her he could see her knickers to get her to come down, the boy said he was not sure.

A girl pupil, now aged 16, recalling the episode about the teacher telling another girl about her pants, said someone had asked for a window to be opened and the girl had stood on a bunker to open it. She then refused to come down and began dancing about. Aitkinson, she said, “said something about her having pink tights and polka dot pants”.

In his evidence at the trial, Atkinson said the girl was being disruptive, showing off and refusing to come down after opening the window. “I thought I might embarrass her by saying I could see her knickers and she got down and sat down”.