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A victim of information

"Victim Information" would be a good name for a service which offers help and advice, perhaps some counselling for victims of violent crime.

A teacher friend of mine was a victim of a violent and sustained assault by a pupil during his first week as a fully qualified teacher in Fife. He has been discovering that Victim Information is not quite what you'd expect from a service with that name.

Bob was attacked last year by a boy in his classroom and sustained minor physical injuries, insufficient to keep him from his job as a teacher. He suffered some psychological consequences, nightmares, panic attacks and the like, and took advantage of the counselling offered to him by his doctor's in-house psychologist. The counselling sessions Bob attended were good and seemed to help him talk through the issues which concerned him.

One of these issues was what he might do when presented with a similar situation again. I know the man quite well and he seemed to cope well with working out strategies to help him deal with other situations in the classroom which are part and parcel of the teacher's lot.

Only the other week, when another fight broke out in his lab, he was able to calm things down and prevent too much injury to the pugilists or the others in the room, himself included. He even got a new level of understanding and respect from the kids involved, regarding their role as citizens of our community. All good stuff.

Bob's the kind of guy not prone to grudges or lingering resentment but he does like justice and tends to see things through, so he spent several months trying to find out what happened to the boy who attacked him last year.

Eventually, under new rules that allow victims access to this information, he discovered that the police had passed the case on to the children's panel reporter and that a hearing had taken place.

The decision of the panel was that the attacker was to be referred to the local authority to work with them on a voluntary basis.

Call me cynical, but I regard this as pretty much a non-consequence which did not reflect an appropriate tariff for such a vicious and sustained attack on a professional doing his calling.

Bob wasn't too impressed either. When he asked the reporter to explain to him how this was justice, the reporter suggested that the Victim Information co-ordinator might be able to help, so Bob agreed to talk to them. The conversation was less than constructive. She insisted that Bob had the problem if he couldn't accept that justice had been done.

It was probably unfortunate that Bob then suggested he understood why people in some societies found it necessary to carry a weapon when there was all but anarchy and crimes such as assaults against teachers went unpunished.

Now, you might think that this is a bit like saying "bomb" within earshot of a policeman at the airport, but Bob thought he was talking to somebody on his side whose job it is to inform and support the victim.

Imagine his surprise when he was sought out by two police officers in school, in front of colleagues and pupils, and interviewed.

The police had been contacted and told about what I would have thought was a private conversation with a victim support professional.

We accept situations like this at our peril. We get the society we deserve if we are going to allow this kind of nonsense to continue. The children at Bob's school have learnt that they have the right to attack a teacher. The assailant is free in society, untouched by the day he attacked a committed and dedicated man with plenty to offer.

The message is that it is OK to punch and kick a teacher.

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