Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Barile appeal told teacher case not in public interest

Mike Barile
Mike Barile was sacked following his conviction for assault

Appeal judges have questioned whether prosecuting a teacher for assault after he faced "extreme provocation" from pupils was in the public interest.

Michael Barile, 52, failed to overturn his convictions for assault - but won sympathy and backing from the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh.

The teacher was sacked by Dundee City Council and convicted of assaulting two pupils in October.

However, the sheriff admonished him, finding he suffered "extreme abuse".

Defence QC Graham Bell told the appeal court that Sheriff Charles Macnair QC had been wrong to find Barile guilty.

The lawyer said the case highlighted what teachers could or could not do to maintain classroom discipline since the law had forbidden physical punishment but allowed "control" in some limited circumstances.

"This case calls into question the real position that teachers find themselves in," said Mr Bell.

I still feel I have not done anything that has merited this kind of treatment to me. It was totally out of proportion
Michael Barile

Despite refusing to overturn Barile's conviction, appeal judges said it was "difficult to understand" why the prosecution was thought to be in the public interest, given the teenage boys' "disgraceful behaviour."

Judges Lord Kingarth, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and Lord Marnoch said: "The sheriff, who chose only to admonish the appellant, found that he had acted under extreme provocation in the face of behaviour by the pupils which was "disgraceful".

"He informs us that he observed, when sentencing the appellant, that had he not been a teacher it was unlikely that he would have been prosecuted."

The case began in January 2008 when a disruptive 14-year-old pupil told the maths teacher: "Your breath stinks."

When the boy later grabbed a note from Barile detailing the bad behaviour, the teacher grabbed the boy's shirt, pushed him and threatened: "I'll put you through the blackboard."

On an earlier occasion the boy had been suspended from school for assaulting Barile.

'Runaway train'

Another incident happened in a history class in May 2008 when another boy, also 14-years-old at the time, swore at the teacher and called him "a walking penis."

Barile told him to stay behind after the class and pinned him against a wall by putting an arm across his chest when the boy tried to walk out.

Following the ruling by appeal judges, Michael Barile said he blamed education officials, the legal process and the parents for the position he found himself in.

He described the process leading to his conviction as a "runaway train".

As he left court, he said: "I still feel I have not done anything that has merited this kind of treatment to me. It was totally out of proportion."

The former maths teacher vowed that his fight would go on. His legal team are preparing an appeal against sentence.

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