Scottish Borders inquiry into teacher abuse case condemns delays

Linda McCall was convicted in May 2021 of assaulting five children with additional needs over a 14 month period Credit: ITV Border

An inquiry into a case of abuse by a teacher in the Scottish Borders has described the time it took a council to report concerns to a child protection unit as "reprehensible".

Andrew Webster QC said this should have happened in October 2017 but it did not take place until nearly a year later. 

Scottish Borders Council have since issued an apology.

Mr Webster described the length of time it took to go to child protection as "reprehensible" as well as saying he couldn't rule out that this had caused "unnecessary harm".

After being found guilty of assaulting five vulnerable children with severe learning difficulties, Linda McCall avoided jail and instead was sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid community work.

She was found guilty of five charges of assaulting five children, and one count of threatening or abusive behaviour between August 2016 and October 2017.

The investigation has looked into how the council dealt with the situation.

A number of recommendations have been made as to how a situation like this should have been handled and how it could be dealt with better if it were to happen again.

The council will meet to discuss the inquiry's findings on Friday, and look at any changes required as a result of its recommendations.

The first recommendation is for the Council to review and improve its child protection training for staff, which includes emphasis given to understanding the rights of children to be protected from harm.

They have also been asked to improve the Scottish Borders Child Protection Procedures and the disciplinary procedures and guidelines on conducting investigations when it comes to allegations similar to this.

When it came to McCall's misconduct, parents had different experiences as to how they found out what was going on.

The report said: "Some parents only discovered there was a concern in respect of their child when approached by members of the child protection unit in the latter part of 2018."

However, some parents only found out after rumours emerged as to why McCall wasn't teaching at the school anymore.

One person who was interviewed during the inquiry said they were met with a "wall of silence" from the council, as well as noting an absence of any apology.

Specific instances where McCall has assaulted the children were noted such as "very roughly [pulling] a child that was grabbing another child and backed that child very roughly into a chair", "[dragging] a child across a gym hall on the child’s knees" and "[holding] a child’s head and chin whilst telling the child to be quiet."

Councillor Carol Hamilton, Executive Member for Children and Young People said: "The report authored by Andrew Webster QC which will be published today is of acute interest to me and to many people across the Borders. Although the report addresses the response of the Council as a whole, I will be considering the detail and paying particular attention to the recommendations as they apply to education.

"For my part, I too am deeply saddened by contents of the report. It makes for very uncomfortable reading.

"I am clearly sorry that the matters were not referred to the Child Protection Unit early on, and I am sorry that communication with the parents was so clearly wrong. It should never have happened and we should have done much better."