A Staffordshire headteacher has been cleared of assault after a court ruled he acted lawfully while restraining a 14-year-old boy at a leisure centre.
A district judge said Aidan Smith was blameless over the incident, in which he had been attempting to protect others from a risk of injury posed by the teenager.
Smith was taken to court after prosecutors alleged he had committed an assault ‘in the sense of grabbing’ during an event away from his school in the Staffordshire area.
But District Judge Kevin Grego acquitted the 57-year-old of assault and a criminal damage charge brought after the youth’s hoodie ripped as he pulled away from the teacher.
The complainant, who cannot be identified because of his age, suffered no injury in the ‘split second’ incident last year.
Acquitting the headteacher following a two-day trial at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, District Judge Grego said he was not satisfied the boy was being truthful when he claimed Smith had thrown a pair of sunglasses onto the ground.
Accepting that Smith, of Long Eaton, Derbyshire, had acted to protect others, the judge said of the school leader: “He has given an account which notably is consistent with what he originally said to the police.”
The judge said of Smith’s actions: “How else was he to react? “Whatever his behaviour was about, (the boy) was presenting a risk of injury to himself and others.
“I find that Mr Smith didn’t assault the boy, nor did he commit the offence of criminal damage.”
Taking the unusual step of ordering the state to meet the costs of Smith’s defence case, the judge added: “If I considered any fault at all accrued to Mr Smith I would not make a costs order, which is what I do.”
In his evidence to the court, Smith, said he feared the youth was about to get involved in a fight.
The headteacher, who began his teaching career in 1984, told the court: “I thought he was going to leave that area and carry on the altercation he had had before.
“I put my arm out to get him to stop and he didn’t stop, and I closed my hand on his hoodie top.
“I thought I was restraining him… so that he didn’t run away and carry on being unsafe.
“He thrashed down at my arm a few times and then I heard the hooded top rip and I let go.”
The youth, who the judge said was “woefully short” on any ability to reflect on his own behaviour, had claimed that Smith was so angry he “started spitting from his mouth”
During his ruling acquitting Smith, the judge also cast doubt on the boy’s claim that he was fearful of being hit, telling the court: “This does not chime with the rest of the evidence.”