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Corporal punishment is assault and MOE has right to expel teachers, court rules

The Employment Relations Court has ruled that inflicting any form of corporal punishment on a person is an assault and the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts has the right to terminate the contract of a teacher.

This was the finding by Justice Anjala Wati in her ruling on Friday 27 September 2019 against Samuela Bulavakarua, a school teacher employed by the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts, until his employment was terminated for inflicting corporal punishment on four school children by slapping them during the lunch hour inside the classroom on 31 May 2018.

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The plaintiff, Mr Bulavakarua, did not deny the allegation of slapping the schoolchildren but tried to justify his actions on the ground that the students “needed to be disciplined and that the student who complained did not receive any injuries.

”Justice Wati stated that any form of beating, including slapping a child, amounts to physical punishment and is therefore an assault.

She said, “…it matters not whether the child receives injury. It also matters not, the intention of the person who causes the physical punishment.”

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The Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Christopher Pryde, said that “this judgment confirms that corporal punishment is assault. Not only can teachers lose their jobs but they can be prosecuted under the Crimes Act for assault. Excuses given by teachers to assault children such as the one given in this case are no longer acceptable and those teachers who assault children can expect to be prosecuted.”

Section 274 of the Crimes Act states that a person commits a summary offence if he or she unlawfully assaults a person and can be sentenced to one year imprisonment.

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