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Pupils' lies wreck teacher's career;Trial

Howard Bambridge endured a year of mental torture after three boys accused him of assault. Michael Prestage reports

The unblemished 20-year career of teacher Howard Bambridge has been ended by the false allegations of three primary schoolchildren whose evidence was dismissed in court as "totally unreliable".

The three boys, aged 10 and 11, from Victoria Avenue primary school in Blackley, Manchester, claimed that Mr Bambridge, a supply teacher, had handled them roughly, trapping the fingers of one, and throwing another across a table.

It has taken a year for the case to come to trial during which the 51-year-old could not find work and was forced to sell his house and car as he faced financial ruin.

The three counts of common assault were thrown out at Manchester magistrates court last Friday and stipendiary magistrate Alan Berg criticised the youngsters as "totally unreliable".

Mr Berg said: "There seems to be an unfortunate view in certain parts of society that those in authority are precluded from taking any reasonable and lawful measures to prevent disruption and disorder.

"This is more unfortunate when society is being invited by the Home Secretary not to 'walk on by' in the face of disorder. It will be a sad day when teachers are prevented from taking any reasonable and moderate corrective methods to prevent unruliness, disruption and indiscipline."

Mr Berg added: "I hope that society will not become so sick that every time such measures are taken people will go running with a complaint to the nearest police station."

Mr Bambridge, who lives in Macclesfield, Cheshire, said that after the past year he could never return to a classroom. "I feel very, very bitter," he said. He added: "I have always been in a position where I trust pupils and pupils have trusted me. Now I feel I could never trust another child again."

The allegations were made after Mr Bambridge, a supply teacher with the Capstan agency, was assigned to the school for two days.

One boy claimed Mr Bambridge had grabbed him and "dumped" him on his chair. A second claimed his fingers were trapped in a tray while a third said he had been thrown across a table.

Mr Bambridge, who was backed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "I never assaulted those boys. I am firm, but fair and I have never had a problem with kids getting used to my discipline."

Ray Mercer, a director of Capstan, said the agency's stringent checks had revealed Mr Bambridge was "as good a teacher as you could get".

Awarding costs to Mr Bambridge out of public funds Mr Berg told him: "I can only imagine what mental torture you have had to endure. You leave this court with an unblemished character."

Peter Smith, general secretary of the ATL, warned that teachers must be allowed to do their jobs without "risking Mickey Mouse legal challenges. We must never go down the American litigation route or it will be a disaster".

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