Dumbbell teacher battles to avoid sack

28th May 2010 at 01:00
After attempted-murder acquittal, he faces new legal fight against school governors

He endured a lengthy court battle after admitting bludgeoning an unruly pupil with a dumbbell. But now, after avoiding prison, Peter Harvey is fighting attempts by his school to sack him.

The teacher spent eight months on remand after the attack, but was given a lenient sentence, and no jail term, by a judge who called him a "thoroughly decent man".

Mr Harvey now faces more legal hearings as he tries to prevent governors at All Saints' RC School in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, from dismissing him rather than supporting his application for retirement on ill-health grounds.

He has not been paid since April, even though his employment case began only last week.

Representatives from his union, the NASUWT, say governors and school leaders at All Saints tried to dismiss Mr Harvey even before his trial started. They will seek "legal redress" if he is not given a suitable settlement.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates has criticised the "unnecessary and inappropriate" treatment of Mr Harvey by his school. She has written to Education Secretary Michael Gove to complain.

"Despite the fact that he has received sympathetic treatment at the hands of the court, his employers are showing no sympathy," Ms Keates said. "It has been clear to all, throughout the court proceedings, that Mr Harvey is very unwell and was so at the time of the incident.

"It is, therefore, in our view quite unnecessary and inappropriate for the school governors and the local authority to seek to dismiss Mr Harvey, rather than to support an application for ill-health retirement.

"No one, least of all Mr Harvey, is seeking to excuse or diminish the seriousness of what took place, but he has already served time in prison and will never be able to do the job he loves ever again."

Mr Harvey, 50, attacked the 14-year-old boy at All Saints on July 8 last year after repeatedly being taunted by pupils in his science class.

Last month, a jury at Nottingham Crown Court took just an hour to clear Mr Harvey of attempting to murder the boy or intending to cause him serious injury. Last week, he was given a two-year community order.

The married father of two, who earlier admitted causing grievous bodily harm without intent, bludgeoned the boy with a dumbbell while shouting, "Die, die, die."

Tony Egginton, mayor of Mansfield, said there was support for Mr Harvey in the town and called on the school and Nottinghamshire County Council to reach a deal with Mr Harvey's legal team.

"I know there has been quite of lot of support from pupils at All Saints for Mr Harvey," Mr Egginton said.

Passing sentence, Judge Michael Stokes QC said: "You are a thoroughly decent man and for well over 20 years you have been a dedicated and successful school teacher.

"The incident was brought about, I have no doubt, by a number of factors combining together and producing in you a quite disproportionate reaction to misbehaviour, abuse and rank disobedience by him and some of his classmates."

Rob Skelton, service director at Nottinghamshire County Council, said it would be "inappropriate" to discuss the case until it was settled.

Mr Harvey met with school governors yesterday.

A church-goer with charisma

Peter Harvey is a keen singer, church-goer and regularly took part in school plays.

Former pupils described him as a "charismatic" teacher who cared deeply about his students.

But five years ago his wife, Samantha, was diagnosed with severe depression, which forced her temporarily to give up work as a teacher. Mr Harvey became stressed and increasingly unable to deal with pupils' disruptive behaviour.

He was signed off in December 2008 after telling the school's education adviser, Shahrukh Mugaseth, that he was having violent thoughts and feared he would seriously harm somebody.

But he was allowed to return to work in April last year after receiving therapy from a counsellor who told him he was too "gentle and placid" and needed to be better at letting his anger out. He attacked the pupil four months later.

Before his trial, Mr Harvey spent eight months in Lincoln Prison, where he refused to apply for bail.

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