July 2000

Caldicot hit national headlines during July with the conviction of Marjorie Evans, headteacher of a local primary school, for common assault against a ten year old pupil at the school. It was alleged that Mrs Evans slapped the boy, who has behavioural and learning difficulties, across the face after he had kicked and tried to headbutt her. She was given a three month prison sentence, suspended for a year. Mrs Evans continues to hotly deny the charges, arguing that she merely restrained the child. She is appealing against the verdict. Following the conviction, a second teacher was suspended from the school and Gwent Constabulary and Monmouthshire County Council announced that they were launching an investigation into incidents of "inappropriate physical handling" and "inappropriate emotional responses to children" at the school.
The case has caused outrage locally and nationally, with strong support being expressed for Mrs Evans. The court had received a large postbag, including letters from parents and past pupils. County Councillor Graham Powell, Chairman of the Governors at the school, stated that Mrs Evans still had his personal support. A petition in her favour has been signed by over 300 parents. There has been widespread condemnation of the severity of the sentence.
It is understood that, whatever the feeling of the school governors, Monmouthshire County Council will insist that Mrs Evans is dismissed from her job, a decision which is likely to be highly unpopular in Caldicot.

The following comments on the sentence were taken from the editorial columns of national newspapers on 29 July:
"a monstrous over-reaction a topsy turvy judgement." - Daily Mirror.
"an extreme decision [which] grew out of a minor incident." - Daily Telegraph.
"wildly disproportionate the law is an ass." - Daily Mail.
"a disgrace." - The Express.
"flies in the face of any commonsense understanding of justice." - The Guardian.

Concern over the future of Llanwern Steelworks continues with the announcement by Corus Steel, which owns the plant, of 450 job losses. Corus say that the cuts will be phased in over a year and will come mainly from natural wastage, although compulsory redundancies were a possibility.
Alan Howarth, the local MP, said he would do "absolutely everything" to support the steelworkers. The government has, however, been blamed by some for the job losses through allowing the high value of the pound to damage the international competitiveness of the plant. Fears for the long term future of Llanwern have been expressed by trade union representatives, who point out that major investment will be needed to reline number three furnace if the plant's future is to be secured.

Following last month's news of turtles being dumped in the lake at the country park, we have been informed that a large snake had also been at large in the vicinity. Our informant tells us that the reptile was a python which had, like the turtles, been dumped by an irresponsible pet-owner who was no longer willing or able to look after it. Country park wardens have now captured to python and it has been 'taken into custody' by Bristol Zoo.

<<June 2000
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