A DISTRICT judge has warned that “all teachers are at risk” from a local mother who perpetrated a two-year campaign of abuse against a member of staff at a primary school.
Presiding at Omagh Magistrates Court, District Judge Bernie Kelly sentenced the 49-year-old from Trillick – who will remain unnamed to retain the anonymity of her child – to three months in prison for her “wholly unacceptable behaviour.”
The court heard that the defendant carried out the campaign of harassment because her child had been categorised as ‘special needs’.
It was also said that the personal messages directed towards the teacher continued after the child left the primary school in question and had moved onto secondary school. It was stated too that the victim of the abusive messages was not part of the decision to categorise the child.
The woman was convicted of harassment for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to her victim.
Judge Kelly also admonished the defendant for putting private details on public social media about her own child. She said, “No parent would put personal information on the internet for a host of reasons. This leaves their child at risk of being targeted.”
Defence barrister Craig Patten said his client had also posted factual documents which was “the wrong way to deal with the issue.”
He added, “She did try to deal with the school and the Education Authority and felt this was a last resort. Perhaps without clear thinking she went to social media.
“She made personal remarks and does regret that.”
“She does not regret posting up documents but now knows it was not the way to deal with it.”
The court was told that the mother was not willing to accept a community order because she is in full-time employment.
Judge Kelly then said the only alternative was a custodial sentence.
Addressing the woman, she said, “This is serious behaviour; otherwise we send the wrong message to any disgruntled parent out there. You cannot go putting up information on social media on another person. The messages were wholly unacceptable. The aggravating feature is that you carried on after your child left the school when the teacher had no more input in its teaching or schooling.”
Asking that his client receive a suspended jail term, Mr Patten said, “She realises she is close to the clanging of a prison door. Custody would impact on her child.”
After spending time in the cells, the woman was returned to the dock and granted bail in the sum of £500 to appeal the sentence but under strict conditions.
She was ordered to have no contact with the injured party, either directly or indirectly, or go within 1,000 metres of any school “especially any school her children attend.” She was also told not to contact any teachers or school staff and not use social media.
Judge Kelly added, “She is lucky I don’t take her mobile phone as well. All teachers are at risk from her.”