Linda McCall was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in July after being found guilty of assaulting the pupils over a 14-month period at the Tweeddale Support Unit in Peebles.
Her victims, who were all aged between five and seven, are non-verbal and McCall, from Earlston, was found guilty of violently manhandling them, dragging then across the floor, pushing them against walls and screaming in their faces.
Because of the children’s complex needs they were unable to express what was happening. Some hid their uniforms to avoid attending school while others returned home with unusual bruising.
McCall’s colleagues raised concerns about her behaviour in 2017, however following a suspension the council later cleared her of any wrongdoing with officials meeting with the parents to incorrectly assure them their children had not been harmed.
After clearing McCall, SBS subsequently launched an inquiry into its handling of the case amid claims of a ‘cover up’.
Local MSP Christine Grahame – who had heard parents express their concerns – raised it with police and prosecutors. At her first trial of Ms McCall in July 2020, a sheriff ruled there was no case to answer.
Ms Grahame queried this decision with the Procurator Fiscal as statements from several parents and staff had not been taken into account. Subsequently, the Crown Office successfully appealed resulting in Ms McCall being found guilty in May this year on five counts of assault and one count of threatening or abusive behaviour between August 2016 and October 2017.
In June, top QC Andrew Webster was appointed to lead the inquiry, with the hope the results would be available to present to a meeting of Scottish Borders Council by November.
But at full council last week Netta Meadows, the council’s chief executive, revealed the findings will not now be available until February next year.
She said: “Andrew Webster was appointed as the investigator at the start of summer and I reported at the September full council that I had hoped to be in a position to present to you the findings of Andrew’s report at this week’s meeting. Unfortunately, the inquiry is still ongoing.”
In a statement to the council Mr Webster said: “Following an initial review of documentation and the identification of areas for investigation I invited various individuals to speak to me. Whilst discussions were unable to be undertaken before October I have now been able to conduct interviews with 28 parents, council employees, former employees and other interested parties.
"The inquiry has also received a number of written representations. The interviews have identified further lines on inquiry which are presently in hand. At present those lines of inquiry suggest that I will need to speak again to certain interviewees and make further investigations into the documentary record.
"Looking forward to those further investigations and the drawing of conclusions, and in anticipation that certain individuals may need to be provided with an opportunity to consider any factual conclusions, I do not consider it feasible that the inquiry can fairly be reported before the end of the year.”