Mother of school hammer attack victim calls for new Solicitor General Robert Buckland MP to quit (From This Is Wiltshire)
Mother of school hammer attack victim calls for new Solicitor General Robert Buckland MP to quit
5:30am Monday 21st July 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
SWINDON South MP Robert Buckland is facing calls to stand down from his new role as Solicitor General after it emerged he was found guilty of professional misconduct but failed to disclose it to the Prime Minister.
It relates to a race hate crime in 2007 where a Wroughton schoolboy was left with severe brain injuries following a vicious attack by a group of 13 Asians.
Both the victim, Henry Webster, and four of the attackers were pupils at Ridgeway School at the time, where Mr Buckland, a former barrister and part-time judge, was a governor.
While conducting the internal investigation, he was not acting in a legal capacity but as a governor so should not have been speaking to barristers involved in the case to secure information.
The MP requested to see hundreds of pupil witness statements from another barrister in the criminal trial of Amjad Qazi, who was jailed for the attack.
In 2011, Mr Buckland, along with Robin Sheallard, were found guilty of breaching the code of conduct of the Bar of England and Wales for illicitly obtaining the papers which he had no entitlement to see.
Although they were both guilty, there was no fine and both were allowed to continue working in the profession.
Last week, Mr Buckland, who became an MP in 2010, was appointed to the role of Solicitor General in David Cameron’s reshuffle, one of the most senior legal roles in the country – but he did not tell the Prime Minister of the breach.
At the weekend, Mr Buckland said the finding was spent and therefore he had no need to disclose it but the mother of Henry Webster, Liz, said she was shocked he was given the role and wants him to now stand down.
She believes that Mr Buckland was using the information to help prevent the school being seen as guilty of racism, something which may have affected his attempts to become an MP.
Liz said: “I am astounded that he was even offered the position as they must have been aware of this.
“If not, he surely had a duty to disclose it himself. He should step down. He obtained personal information and it shows he was prepared to do anything to get the result he wanted.
“I reported this to the police and CPS when I first heard what he had done but no-one did anything. After that I passed it on to the Bar and they have since found him guilty.
“It shows simply that he is not fit to do this job and should stand down immediately, firstly for the breach in the first place and then not declaring it.”
Following the attack, Liz launched civil action against Ridgeway School for failing to protect her son which she lost.
However, the Swindon Local Safeguarding Children Board commissioned a review in 2010 which found the school had failed to tackle escalating racial tensions.
The case centred on whether the school had turned a blind eye to racism as teachers were under the impression the Asian pupils were being bullied when was in fact it was the other way around.
Henry, who was 15 at the time had been the target of abuse and challenged one of his tormentors to a fight but was jumped by a gang of 13.
The pupil, who is now studying Geography at Plymouth University, was left fighting for his life after suffering three skull fractures.
He is moving on with his life but still suffers from bouts of tiredness.
Following a trial his attackers were jailed for between eight months and eight years.
Anne Snelgrove, who was the Labour MP at the time and will be standing for election next year, said: “This appalling incident which left a teenage boy seriously injured was a tragedy.
“However it is shocking that Robert Buckland as a school governor requested witness statements from this case and was handed them by a fellow barrister.
As the Member of Parliament for South Swindon at the time of the incident I worked closely with Henry’s mother, The Ridgeway School, the local council, community teams and Wiltshire Police to assist Henry's recovery and make sure his attackers were brought to justice as well as ensure action was taken at the school and the local council so that this sort of incident could not happen again in any of Swindon’s schools.
“I was aware at the time of Mr Buckland’s actions in securing the witness statements of 350 children at the school who saw the incident and I raised this with a number of organisations and individuals, including the school and the police.
“I was assured that it was being dealt with and subsequently I became aware that Mr Buckland had left the school’s governing body. Robert Buckland still has questions to answer about his actions, as they had the potential to make a bad situation much worse.”
Mr Buckland has said there was no malicious intent for his actions and he believed he was acting in the best interest of the school.
He said: “It is a matter of public record that in May 2011, I was found to have committed a minor breach of the Code of Conduct of the Bar of England and Wales. I was not suspended or fined and continued to practice and sit as a Recorder. This finding was removed from the Bar records after two years and therefore I was not required to declare it upon appointment as Solicitor General.”
PUPIL HIT WITH CLAW HAMMER
THE attack on Henry Webster received national coverage when it took place in 2007.
The schoolboy was brutally attacked by 13 Asians who punched, kicked and hit him six times with a claw hammer.
The fallout saw far right groups attempt to make political capital from the incident while Islamic leaders called for peace.
Henry’s mum Liz Webster maintained Ridgeway School had to take a lot of responsibility for the incident as cases of bullying towards her son had previously occurred.
She argued the teachers believed the Asian pupils were the target of bullies and they were therefore afraid to step in.
The family launched a civil action against the school, saying it had failed to protect her son. However, in 2010 Mr Justice Nichol rejected this claim.
But a review by the Swindon Local Safeguarding Children Board concluded a few months later the school had failed to tackle the problem.
It said the school needed to monitor bullying for racism but race mentors for new pupils needed to be appointed to help them settle in.
Shortly after the incident a school fence was erected along with a CCTV system.
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