Page last updated at 19:57 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 20:57 UK

Head's relief over safety ruling


James Porter speaks about the effect the case has had on the school.

A head teacher has spoken of his relief after being cleared of any blame following the death of a three-year-old pupil who fell at his school.

James Porter, who also owns the private Hillgrove School in Bangor, Gwynedd, had been convicted of health and safety breaches and ordered to pay 20,000.

But appeal judges have now quashed the conviction.

Kian Williams fell as he jumped from steps at the school and later died in August 2004 from an MRSA infection.

Three appeal court judges ruled Mr Porter's conviction in July 2007 was unsafe.

Lord Justice Moses said all pupils could fall down steps and the only way to stop them would be to hold hands or to prevent access, which was "impossible".

The court heard Kian's infection arose out of head injuries he suffered jumping during a game of Batman.

They [children] should be free to know that a nettle stings and that if they fall over they're going to graze themselves
James Porter

Speaking after Monday's hearing, Mr Porter, 66, from Bangor, said there was an "immense feeling of relief" among those involved with the school, which he has run with his wife Sylvia since 1975.

"We feel there has been a sense of a lid lifting off the school and school life which has been there for the last four years," he told BBC Wales.

"The staff, the children are sensing it. The parents are overjoyed, the parents are delighted. We are having people literally dancing with joy about the result of this particular verdict."

Mr Porter said there would be "worldwide" relief among teachers because the same law applies in many other countries and he had received e-mails from Australia.

"Here it has had a big effect on how we are going to proceed in school. And a very beneficial effect I have to say," he added.

"We have a responsibility to be loving and to be caring as any good parent would have.

Kian Williams
Kian Williams was playing Batman when he fell

"But as a parent was telling me today, she'd had two serious accidents in her back garden.

"Accidents will and do happen. And the problem is if there's a different criteria, a different standard for schools than there is from home then the children will not have the same freedoms in schools that they should have in homes.

"And they should be free. They should be free to make mistakes, to have accidents. They should be free to know that a nettle stings and that if they fall over they're going to graze themselves."

Mr Porter's trial heard how Kian had jumped from a height of about that of a standard household settee while playing in July 2004.

The boy died after being moved to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool where he contracted the MRSA superbug.

The head teacher was convicted on the basis that he exposed Kian to a risk of injury by failing to prevent unsupervised access to the school's stairs.

The prosecution said more staff should have been on duty, and there was no reason why a gate put up following the accident could not have been in place before.

Mr Porter's barrister, Patrick Harrington QC, challenged the safety of the conviction on the grounds that there was nothing to suggest that the steps were a risk.

He also claimed there was nothing "reasonably practicable" that could have been done to completely remove the risk of a child jumping and hurting themselves.

The court heard Mr Porter's independent school had an excellent safety record, even when it was compared to other schools with completely flat playground surfaces.

Head appeals after death of boy
16 Jan 08 |  North West Wales
Head fined after boy's fatal fall
28 Sep 07 |  North West Wales
Head warning after guilty verdict
01 Aug 07 |  North West Wales

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