Two church workers who beat children over grades walk free

The couple from Bellshill, Lanarkshire, went on trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court and denied the allegations against them. Picture: John Devlin
The couple from Bellshill, Lanarkshire, went on trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court and denied the allegations against them. Picture: John Devlin
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Two church workers who assaulted children when they failed to get top grades at school have walked free from court.

Fraser Dodds, 33, and his wife Carolyn, 31, assaulted a boy and a girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, when they did not receive top marks from teachers.

The conviction will have a deep and long-lasting impact on him and he has been unable to continue his work in the church

PETER MULLEN

After being given a B in a school assignment, the boy, then aged eight, was pinned down and restrained by Mrs Dodds while Mr Dodds smacked him despite protests from the youngster that he could not breath properly.

The girl, who was just six when she was first attacked, was also hit when she was given a “straight face” by a teacher rather than a “smiley one”.

On one occasion, Mr Dodds hit her so hard a ring caught her skin causing it to bleed.

The Dodds are heavily involved in the Hope United Church which is based in Motherwell, Lanarkshire, and Dundee.

He is the associate pastor of the church while she is a worship leader as well as a singer.

The couple from Bellshill, Lanarkshire, went on trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court and denied the allegations against them but were found guilty by Sheriff Shiona Waldron.

The sheriff has now ordered the pair to be supervised for eight months.

Peter Mullen, defending Mr Dodds, said: “Even after being found guilty after a trial, he continues to maintain his innocence in relation to this matter.

“The conviction will have a deep and long-lasting impact on him and he has been unable to continue his work in the church.

“He believes his actions were chastisement but the court found them to be criminal.

“Up until this he was a model citizen, never having come to the attention of the courts and worked in his community to help people.”

Kevin McCarron, defending Mrs Dodds, said: “She is a woman who has never had to come to the attention of the authorities and is rated as a minimal risk of re-offending and I submit you will have little difficulty accepting that conclusion.

“Her life has been turned upside down by this coming to light. She will have to accept her conviction.”

The children had given evidence by video link and told how they were beaten for unsatisfactory school grades and were praised by the sheriff for offering “remarkably consistent” accounts.

The court heard they were beaten on several occasions between January and February this year. They told how they were forced to remove their clothing before being smacked on the buttocks.

In evidence, Mr Dodds said he had done nothing wrong and suggested the children had made up the allegations.

He added: “It was quite clear that he could breath, his lungs were full of air and there was nothing to suggest there was anything wrong other than he was just trying to get out of it.

“He did get a B around that time but that is not the reason, we would never smack them for a below average grade.”

Sheriff Waldron told the pair: “Assault is a crime of intent which makes it different from chastisement and it is the pre-planned nature of it which makes it assault.”