Cruelty conviction against teacher is quashed on appeal

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A teacher living in Moira accused of cruelty against children with special needs has had his conviction quashed on appeal.

Stephen Downes (60), of Glebe Gardens, Moira, a former senior teacher at Parkview Special School in Lisburn, appeared at Belfast County Court, where a judge granted a ‘no case to answer’ application by the defendant’s legal team.

Mr Downes’ lawyers had been appealing a decision made at Lisburn Magistrates Court last year to sentence him to six months in prison, suspended for two years, in connection with two charges of cruelty against a person under 16 in 2010 and 2011.

Mr Downes had always denied hitting a child in the face after she took another pupil’s milk. He also denied assaulting a second girl who had fallen against a radiator.

The two girls involved in the case were assessed by police and social workers as being unable to provide formal statements, as they could not fully comprehend the court process. Their statements were submitted on a hearsay basis to the lower court via their parents and classroom assistants at the school.

The judge last week’s told the court that “no reasonable jury, properly directed, could ever be satisfied to the necessary standard of proof” that physical assaults had happened, and granted the application for no case to answer.