On 8th January 2015 Rachel Regan, a teaching assistant, was sentenced for an act of child cruelty she committed at work.
She was found guilty after a trial in December 2014. As to the facts, “Jurors heard how the pupil was also shut in a storeroom, during a five-month bullying campaign. The catalogue of incidents against the youngster, who is now nine, also included putting sticky notes on her thumbs and tying her shoes on with string“.
Ms Regan was sentenced to a 12 month Community Order with a requirement of doing 40 hours unpaid work.
There are Sentencing Guidelines for this offence. It doesn’t fit easily in the guidelines, but is best described as going in the third category on the basis of being most analogous to “regular
incidents of short-term abandonment (the longer the period of long-term abandonment or the greater the number of incidents of short-term abandonment) the more serious the offence).”
This gives a starting point of 6 months in prison, with a range going up to 2 years. This is the sort of case that is probably outside of the guidelines however.
After conviction, the Judge adjourned for a Pre-Sentence Report as is common. Slightly more unusually, he ruled out a prison sentence. This appears to have been because of “the length of time the classroom assistant had been on bail before she was charged, during which time the Crown Prosecution Service decided what to do. [The Judge] said the period of uncertainty was a punishment in itself, explaining that this was why he had not considered a custodial sentence.”
This seems a sensible act of humanity over a difficult case. It is a bit of an ‘old school’ decision, especially when coupled with the noting of the fact that this she had ‘been professionally humiliated, now you’ve been publicly humiliated‘.
These do explain why Ms Regan received a sentence that seems, on the fact of it, extremely low (it is the smallest number of hours of unpaid work that can be ordered). Sometimes mercy has a role to play in the sentencing exercise.