Teacher jailed for ‘cruel’ offence against vulnerable boy at Mansfield nursery

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A former headteacher who smeared fish pie into a vulnerable three-year-old boy’s face and tried to blame him afterwards in a Mansfield nursery has been jailed, a court has heard.

Helen Walker checked she wouldn’t be seen on CCTV and “furtively” scooped up a handful of food before wiping it across his face at the nursery in February last year, Nottingham Crown Court was told.

Judge Mark Watson said the boy has an aversion to certain types of food because of their textures on his skin and immediately became upset.

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"This was a cruel offence committed by you in a position of power against a vulnerable victim,” he told Walker while sentencing her on Wednesday.

Helen WalkerHelen Walker
Helen Walker

“You were aware of his developmental needs and sensitivities and this makes your behaviour all the more appalling.

“This was a deliberate and calculated act. His immediate upset is apparent but your response was to act as if he had taken food from another child.

"You suggested he was trying to take other lunch boxes and you were only trying to feed him.”

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He said Walker, aged 49, falsely claimed he had bitten other children.

Nottingham Crown Court.Nottingham Crown Court.
Nottingham Crown Court.
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“You tried to cover up your offending," he told her. “You tried to place blame on him when he was in no position to put the record straight.”

Even after Walker, of Watson Avenue, Mansfield, admitted child cruelty in February, she “continued to minimise what she had done,” the judge said.

“You lacked genuine remorse. It was a brief act but it followed a deliberate path.”

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The offence was aggravated by Walker’s abuse of the trust placed in her by the nursery and the boy's mother.

Walker, who had previously been a headteacher in a rural village school, was working through her resignation at the nursery after being demoted when the offence took place.

“Those who have known her for a long time have described her as kind, caring, compassionate and respectful,” her defence counsel said. “It was out of character for a woman who has amassed a great career of experience teaching and working within a caring role.”

Judge Watson sentenced Walker, who has no previous convictions, to five months in prison. She will be barred from working with children but can appeal the decision.