Prefect wins a court order to stop bullying

May 5, 2003

The Times

By Shirley English

A GIRL who became the victim of a hate campaign has won a landmark court order against pupils who made her life a misery.

The anti-bullying interdict, or non-molestation order, is thought to be the first of its kind in Britain granted against a named group of pupils. Four girls have been told to stay away from Jenny Soutar, 17, and warned that if they verbally abuse her or make gestures at her they would be committing an offence.

Miss Soutar, a prefect and sixth-former at Blairgowrie High School in Perthshire, went to court last week after eight months of abuse at school from a gang of younger girls. She believes that the trouble started after a shopkeeper asked her the age of a pupil trying to buy cigarettes, and Miss Soutar felt unable to lie that the girl was 16.

She was threatened, verbally abused and pushed about in the playground and school corridors. Matters came to a head when she was allegedly assaulted by one of the gang in front of Bill Kirkpatrick, the head teacher, in his office.

Miss Soutar, who is about to sit Higher examinations, said: “I don’t think I will pass my exams this year because of this. I was hoping to join the police, but after this I don’t know if I’m tough enough.”

Sheriff Michael Fletcher granted the interdict at Perth Sheriff Court against four girls aged 14 and 15, described as the ringleaders of a gang of up to 15 pupils. The girls, whose names cannot be published because of their ages, must not verbally abuse her, gesture at her, threaten her in any way, physically attack her or cause her fear and distress.

Miss Soutar now plans to take a year out after sitting her Highers in maths, philosophy, physical education and administration. Her mother, Glenda, said the legal move had been supported by parents concerned about the rise of a bully culture at the school.

She said: “Jenny has been through hell and back and I went through every avenue with the school, but nothing was done. She was not safe in the school and I felt I was banging my head against a brick wall. She was a bubbly girl, always laughing and joking. Now she can’t walk down the street and has not got the freedom to be with her friends.

“She can’t concentrate on the most important exams in her life because of a minority in the school running amok.”

A spokesman for Tayside Police said that they were aware of incidents at the school that had been reported to the children’s panel. A local inspector is involved in talks with school staff. Perth and Kinross education authority also admitted it was aware of serious problems with discipline at the school. “The head teacher and senior management team are working with the education authority to address these,” a council spokeswoman said.

The Education Departments at Westminster and Edinburgh said that they were not aware of any other similar cases of the law being used in this way to prevent bullying.

Legal experts said that the sheriff’s judgment would have widespread implications. Cameron Fyfe, a Glasgow-based lawyer who represents 50 families of bullied children, said: “Until now I would normally advise clients that the chances of obtaining an interdict against school bullies was so slim it would not be worthwhile going to court.

“Now, thanks to this judgment, we have much greater hope of dealing with bullies through the court system.”

Article: Prefect wins a court order to stop bullying

Created on: 2008-10-01 09:33:35