Bailey Gwynne's death '˜potentially avoidable' finds report

The death of Aberdeen schoolboy Bailey Gwynne could potentially have been avoided if pupils had told staff his killer was carrying a knife in school, a report has concluded.

Bailey Gwynne

Bailey was killed by a single stab wound to the chest following a row in the dining hall at Cults Academy in October last year.

An inquiry into circumstances surrounding the tragedy, which reported this morning, said the Scottish Government should give headteachers greater powers to search pupils suspected of carrying weapons.

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It has also called upon Holyrood to bring in greater legal controls surrounding the purchase of weapons online.

A trial at Aberdeen High Court earlier heard that the knife used to kill Bailey was bought from Amazon by his killer for £40.

His killer, who cannot be named and is known as Child A, was later sentenced to nine years in custody after being found guilty of culpable homicide.

The inquiry into issues raised by the tragedy has been led by Andrew Lowe, chairman of child and adult protection for Renfrewshire.

Its report found his death resulted from an “unplanned, spontaneous conflict that emerged rapidly out of an unexceptional banter.

“It is not considered that it could have been predicted or averted on the day•”

However, the report added: “The course of the conflict was fatally altered by the possession of a bladed weapon by one of the boys.

“This was potentially predictable and avoidable if those who knew Child A carried weapons in school had reported this to staff.”

School staff fought to save Bailey’s life but he died shortly after arriving at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

His killer had been accused of carrying a knife and a knuckle duster on a school bus two years before the fatal stabbing.

The boy, known as Child A, was searched by headteacher of Anna Muirhead after she received a report he was in possession of the weapons.

No weapons were found, with Child A given a caution by Ms Muirhead. No report was made to police.

Andrew Lowe said he believed the teacher had acted appropriately at the time.

The child’s pockets and bag were searched with his consent.

Under reforms proposed by him in light of Bailey’s death, the allegation would routinely be reported to the police with a risk assessment of Child A undertaken.

Mr Lowe, on presenting his findings, said: “On one occasion it was reported to the headteacher that he was carrying weapons on the bus.

“I have considered that and I thought she acted swiftly and appropriately.

He added: “Nothing was found. She followed the search with a very clear statement of expectations that weapons must not be brought into the school.

“Frankly, I don’t think she could have done anything more.”

Mr Lowe said one other knife incident at Cults Academy was brought to his attention, which occurred around 2013. The issue was then referred to police by the headteacher.

Since Bailey’s death, 15 knife related incidents in Aberdeen schools have been reported to police by headteachers.

Following the trial, it emerged that concerns had been raised about his killer - known as Child A in the report - in 2007 while he was still at primary school.

Then, he had thrown rocks at a fellow pupil, who was later treated for concussion.

The report today said that incident had “marginal significance” to the events at Cults Academy although it conceded a complaint about the incident had not be dealt with robustly.

With regard to the 2007 incident, the report said: “Child A was a secondary player in these events and is not mentioned significantly in the correspondence.

“It did not reveal a violent child but a child under very significant and continual pressure from his brother A1.”

A complaint made about the 2007 incident was “attenuated and did not receive a satisfactory outcome,” today’s report said.

Aberdeen City Council is now working on a weapons strategy to control any presence of knives in its schools.

It earlier emerged that the local authority declined to take part in the Scottish Government’s No Knives, Better Lives campaign given the “exceptionally low” levels of knife crime in the area.

Now, Police Scotland shall be notified of “each and every” incident of weapons known to school staff.

Currently, headteachers must ask consent of a pupil to search a pupil suspected of carrying a weapon. If no consent is given, police and a parent are contacted.

The report said: “The inquiry has also recommended should improve the resilience of schools to the threat posed by weapons and give consideration to amending the law in relation to searching pupils.

“The Scottish Government should explore the further legislative controls that can be brought to bear on the purchase of weapons online.”

A joint statement from Aberdeen City Council, Police Scotland and NHS Grampian said: “Firstly, it is of course, impossible to begin with anything other than a reflection on what took place at Cults Academy a year ago.

“What happened then was a tragedy which saw a young life lost and had a traumatic impact on so many others lives.

“The Chief Officers Group pays tribute to the extraordinary dignity and fortitude shown by Bailey’s family.

“The Chief Officers Group and the teams we represent are determined to implement any changes to practice that aim to decrease the likelihood of such an awful event taking place in the future.

“But we are well aware that no amount of future change will alter the fact that Bailey is no longer with us and that his loss continues to be keenly felt.”

Yesterday, Mr Lowe said children were “key to the solution of knife crime in schools”.

He addd: “There must be a sense of obligation that children - and their parents - owe to their community.”

Under his recommendations, all parents in the Aberdeen will receive a letter outlining the school’s rules on weapons which must be signed by an adult.

He described it as a “modest contract” between the child, the parent and the school that had been used in other areas to reinforce the “importance” of the issue.”

Mr Lowe added there may be “many reasons” why a headteacher might not inform the police of a knife-related incident.

He added: “It may be viewed as a minor incident, they don’t want to criminalise the child or it may be about the reputation of the school.

“We must trump all these with the expectation that the child will be reported to the police.