December 2022

Minibus staff physically abused and mocked vulnerable children on school journeys

Vulnerable children were physically abused and mocked on their journeys to school by the taxi firm staff trusted to look after them.

The children were subjected to hair-pulling, slapping and, on one occasion, one of the students was “sat on” by one of the Z Carz staff who accompanied them on the minibus each day.

A court heard that the driver of the vehicle – 59-year-old John Dale – mimicked and mocked the way two non-verbal youngsters communicated, while transport assistant Tracy Evans was heard saying she “didn’t like people in wheelchairs”.

At one point, Evans, 55, was said to have told one of the crying children “if you pull my hair I will pull yours back”.

Their crimes came to light when another youngster saw the abuse.

But they were spared jail yesterday at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court despite admitting the ill-treatment or neglect of a person lacking capacity on occasions during 2018 and 2019.

Both were handed nine-month prison sentences, suspended for 18 months, and can never work with vulnerable people again

They were each given 100 hours of unpaid work, and Dale must undertake 30 rehabilitation activity days.

The judge called the offences “extremely distressing and concerning”.

Judge David Fletcher added: “For people who have relatives, particularly children, who have serious vulnerabilities, it’s extremely distressing and concerning.

The victims were incapable of expressing what had happened to them when they were in your care. It was only because of two people who were more able to communicate that these matters came to light.

“It’s not suggested that everyone in your care was fearful of you. One student said ‘She was nice to me but not to the victim.'”

“People who are the most vulnerable in our society are entitled to understand that their care should be of the highest quality.”

Parents and police were contacted after a student saw Evans sit on one of the other children in 2019, the court was told.

Deborah Gould, prosecuting, said: “Both had some training in how to care and support people. The children cannot understand or describe what happened to them. Their condition includes challenging behaviours. Patience and consideration is needed.

“One child who witnessed the behaviour got home from school and was upset. They would not tell their mum but said they didn’t like the driver’s assistant.

“A few months later, they were persuaded to get back on the bus. Another person said Evans was heard saying she didn’t like people in wheelchairs.

A student heard another student crying and Evans saying ‘That’s what you get for pulling hair’.

Both defendants laughed and said ‘They’re having a moment’.

“Evans was heard saying ‘If you pull my hair I will pull yours back’.”

Dale, an ex-serviceman who had worked for the taxi firm for 15 years, was heard mimicking the student’s noises and telling them to shut up.

The man, of Biddulph, Staffordshire, was seen slapping a victim.

“Sometimes the student would take their shoes off. Evans threw them back at her and said ‘That’s what you get.’ She said the sounds the student made were ‘really annoying’,” Ms Gould continued.

Evans, from Dresden, Stoke-on-Trent, now works at a fish and chip shop. The mother had been employed at Z Carz for 10 years.