A thug who launched a violent assault on a headmistress when she told off his son for racial abuse walked free from court yesterday. Paul Stratford punched and swore at Zita McCormick after she told him his eight-year-old son Brendan would be excluded for a day. Flanked by colleagues, the teacher told the 31-year-old to calm down. Instead he made for her, punching her and pushing her backward.
Aggression: Paul Stratford, left, punched and forcefully shoved Zita McCormick, right, in front of shocked staff after a showdown over his eight-year-old son Brendan's behaviour
Despite the gravity of the offence, magistrates decided to impose only a community sentence, telling Stratford to pay his victim £100. In another astonishing case yesterday, a Romanian thief who ran a £3million cashpoint scam with 9,000 victims also escaped jail. Leonid Rotaru was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence. Last night, an education expert said law and order seemed to have ‘gone out of the window’. Another said Stratford, who already had a conviction for violence, should have been jailed to deter others from attacking teachers.
The incident took place in June after Brendan was accused of a racial outburst against a Somali boy at Seven Fields Primary in Swindon. He also swore at pupils and staff, in what Mrs McCormick said was his third act of bad behaviour that week at the 222-pupil school. After calling the boy’s mother to ask for him to be picked up at 9.30am, his father arrived and launched his attack in the foyer. A court heard he demanded of Mrs McCormick: ‘Why have you called my son a f****** thug?’ After being asked to calm down, he repeated: ‘You called my son a f****** thug’ and ordered the teacher not to wave her finger at his boy. He then launched the attack that was ended only by the intervention of the caretaker. Mrs McCormick said before the sentencing: ‘It was very frightening but you work on adrenalin. ‘I could not let this man get into the school.’ She revealed she has even asked parents to take anger management classes: ‘They can’t control the anger they have. The school is where they vent anger at public servants who are there to protect and educate their children.’
Stratford, who was found guilty of common assault, was given a nine-month community order by Swindon magistrates. Chairman of the bench David Sinclair told him to pay £400 in costs and £100 in compensation to his victim. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said Stratford’s behaviour was totally unacceptable. ‘Sometimes heads need to make tough decisions and they need to have society’s full support to make such decisions for the sake of all their pupils,’ he added. ‘These types of attacks against public servants doing their jobs should be punished very severely.’
Prosecuted: Stratford claimed he was 'protecting' his son, who was left in tears after Mrs McCormick excluded him from Seven Fields Primary School in Swindon, pictured
Chris McGovern, a former headmaster who chairs the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘This assault happened in a school and that should make the offence more serious. If schools aren’t safe then there is no hope. ‘The children first witnessed the alleged bullying by this boy, then his father supporting him and then the father hitting the headteacher. It is simply unacceptable. ‘This should have been an exemplary sentence to ensure that people are put off doing things like this. A custodial sentence should have been seriously considered. ‘Often you feel that someone who has committed a crime has not been punished as much as they should have been. It looks as though law and order has gone out of the window.’
Stratford, who wore a black T-shirt in the dock yesterday, claimed he was ‘protecting’ his son, who was in tears after Mrs McCormick excluded him for a day. ‘She was uncontrollable, she was close to his eye,’ he claimed. ‘I was worried about her pointing him in the eye and blinding him. And that’s when I thought I needed to do something to protect my kid.’ Details of Stratford’s son’s allegedly racist remarks were not revealed to the court, but at a previous hearing Mrs McCormick, who said she had not been injured in the assault, described the violent aftermath. She said: ‘Mr Stratford made two huge steps and actually punched and pushed me and said “Don’t tell my son off”. The punch came first and then it was a push. It was almost like a fist and a hand and I came backwards. I said “Don’t hit the headteacher”. It’s quite shocking and it’s very frightening.’ Pauline Lambert, prosecuting, said Stratford had not met the headmistress prior to the attack. After throwing the punch he continued to rant until he left the building, she said.
A recent survey by the NAHT revealed as many as one in ten head teachers has been physically assaulted by a parent or carer. The 1,362 heads surveyed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland reported being punched, spat on, kicked, head butted, bitten and sexually assaulted. Twice as many reported being victimised on social networking websites. One described a ‘serious kicking attack’ that left its victim ‘badly bruised’ and with ‘difficulty walking for a couple of days’. In one case a head said a parent had tried to run them over in the car park. Another had a table thrown at them. And one description read: ‘Punched in the face, bitten, kicked, spat at, hand down T-shirt to grab breasts, hair pulled.’
Free, the fraudster who stole 9,000 bank PINs
A cashpoint fraudster walked free from court yesterday despite being caught with the private details of 9,000 bank customers. Leonid Rotaru, 32, was captured red-handed by police as he returned to remove a card-reading device from a supermarket cash machine. Officers said the Romanian was a member of an organised gang and already on the run from another force for the same crime.
Scam: Leonid Rotaru, front right was involved in a sophisticated bank card fraud thought to be worth in excess of £3 million and with 9,000 potential victims. He is pictured walking free from court
When they raided his home they found details of 9,000 bank cards, including personal identification numbers (PINs) – on his computer which could have bagged him up to £3.25m. But he escaped a jail term when he admitted four charges of fraud and possessing various illegal devices at Taunton Crown Court. Sentencing him to a suspended 18-month jail term, Judge Graham Hume Jones said: ‘This is a sophisticated scam by which a number of people could have been victims. ‘Even if they had been repaid by the banks, the banks themselves would have been the victims, and ultimately the banks’ customers.’ Criminals use a wide range of tricks to steal private banking details, including increasingly sophisticated skimming machines. Last year more than £36m was stolen.
In July 2008, Romanian fraudster Adu Bunu was jailed for five years after he was convicted of cloning more than 2,000 cards, which allowed him to steal up to £1.1million. In October 2011, another Romanian, Ion Matei, 34, was jailed for a year after using mousetrap paper to line ATMs [automated teller machines] so that when customers tried to withdraw their cash, the notes stuck to the paper and did not emerge from the slot.
Fraud: Leonid Rotaru is pictured returning to remove his skimmer from a cash machine in Somerset
Criminal: The 32-year-old helped to fit 'skimming' devices on cash dispensers, which downloaded the card details of those who used them
In the latest case to come before the courts, Rotaru – who has lived legally in Britain for three years – used a sophisticated card-reader, sometimes known as a ‘skimmer’. It fitted over the slot where customers enter their cards and automatically recorded information on the magnetic card strip. At the same time a hidden pinhole camera would record the victim entering their PIN on the keypad. The crook could then use the information to make duplicate cards. The father-of-two was caught out after a customer at a Tesco store in Minehead, Somerset, called police after becoming suspicious. Officers looked at CCTV and saw Rotaru fitting the device and he was arrested as one of them recognised him when, by chance, he returned to collect it. They raided his home in Bridgwater and discovered he had built up a massive hoard of private banking information. They also found evidence Rotaru emailed the details to other members of the gang so they could ‘cash in’. When interviewed, he told police he was ‘at the bottom end’ of the operation, and that the ‘big boys operated out of London’. He refused to identify them.
Free: Mr Rotaru was given an 18-month jail term, suspended for two years
The court heard Rotaru skipped bail while under investigation for another fraud in Axminster, Devon, in 2011. He was eventually convicted by a jury after his DNA was discovered inside the inner components of the tiny device. Speaking outside court, Barry Douglas, of Avon and Somerset Police, said Rotaru was part of a well organised gang. He added: ‘Banks say the average fraud per card is £460.’ Detective Chief Inspector Paul Barnard, who leads the police’s cheque and plastic crime unit, told the Mail in March that 92 per cent of all ATM fraud in Britain is committed by Romanian nationals. Officers warned there were an estimated 1,000 Romanian cashpoint gangs in Britain, raking in an estimated £30m a year.
Sophisticated: This is a police picture showing two views of a card skimming device used by Mr Rotaru
Source: Daily Mail UK