A social worker has been found guilty of assaulting a 12-year-old boy he was helping to return to school.
Stephen Dent, who works for Croydon Council, became “pink with aggression” when the child refused to go, Croydon Magistrates’ Court was told.
Dent, who pleaded not guilty to assault, was today given a two-year conditional discharge. He was also ordered to pay costs and compensation.
Dent, 54, had been assigned to help the boy, who had been off school for more than 15 weeks after a meningitis scare last year, the court was told.
His mother told the court that Dent, of Harrow Road, Warlingham, had been at their home on 15 July when he became aggressive.
The mother alleged Dent had grabbed her son by the arms, dragged him across the floor and “intimidated” him, causing the boy to become hysterical.
She also claimed that Dent threatened to call in “stronger men” to deal with the boy and that he warned the child would be put into care and bullied if he did not comply.
She alleged Dent told the boy: “If this were 20 years ago, I’d have your arm behind your back and you’d be frogmarched into school.”
Dent denied making the remarks.
Autistic spectrum disorder
After the incident, the boy was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder and acute separation disorder, which made him afraid to leave the house. Dent was not aware of the boy’s condition at the time of the assault.
The court was shown photographs of the bruising and red marks suffered by the boy.
Sarah Lewis, defending, said Dent was “simply trying to assist” the boy.
Dent’s colleague, Stephanie Greaves, a project worker with the Croydon Oak Avenue Project, admitted that numerous previous attempts to get the boy back to school using different methods had failed.
Dent, who had worked in social care for more than 30 years, was a former manager at the project, which specialises in crisis intervention to prevent young people going into care.
Finding Dent guilty of assault, district judge Anthony Callaway said: “I have absolutely no doubt that Mr Dent was motivated to assist the boy from the start, and in particular on the day in question.”
But he continued: “In the flash of the moment I take the view that he applied excessive and unlawful force to the boy, and on that basis I find the case proved.”
But the judge stopped short of sending Dent to jail, saying that losing his job as a result of the conviction would be punishment enough.
After the verdict, Croydon Council confirmed that Dent was suspended soon after the council had become aware of the complaint that led to his conviction.
“He remains suspended while an internal investigation takes place under the council’s disciplinary process,” said a spokeswoman.