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Teaching assistant who attacked autistic child walks free from court

A teaching assistant who was caught on camera beating an autistic child has walked free from court after a judge said he had already suffered as a consequence of his actions.

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William Kevin Clifford, known as Kevin Clifford, was handed a suspended jail sentence and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work when he appeared before Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Clifford, 61, of Fisher Street, Wolverhampton, was working as a teaching assistant at Tettenhall Wood School at the time of the attack on 11-year-old Tobie Orlowski in April last year.

Tobie's condition means he is unable to speak.

Tobie's family, who requested the lifting of restrictions on reporting the case, have spoken out against the sentence, saying Clifford should have been sent immediately to jail.

Samantha Pearson, the cousin of Tobie's mother Charlotte, criticised the sentence, saying she expected Clifford would receive a substantial prison sentence.

"He didn't receive anything that could be even slightly classed as appropriate punishment," she said.

"Charlotte collected Tobie from school as usual," she said. "She did notice his anxiety seemed heightened. But as he is totally non-verbal, Tobie couldn't, and will never be able to, tell his mommy what was wrong.

"By the time Charlotte got home with Tobie, she was called by the school head to be informed that Tobie had in fact been attacked that day by a teaching assistant.

"That day marked a total collapse in any trust and settled nature that Tobie had.

"Tobie had no say in the suffering he faced, and still does. The school have worked tirelessly with Tobie and continue to support Charlotte and Tobie to make him feel it's one of his safe places again."

Clifford admitted child cruelty and abuse of trust while in a position of trust.

His jail term was suspended for 18 months, and he was ordered to report to the probation service on a weekly basis.

Passing sentence, the judge told the court: "William Kevin Clifford has several mitigating factors and a huge amount of suffering whilst waiting for this case to be concluded, including anxiety, weight gain and the inability to secure any employment."

Ross Ashcroft, headteacher of Tettenhall Wood School, said: "Following the recent prosecution and subsequent sentence of William Kevin Clifford we only wish to state that the person in question has not been in school since the day that the incident occurred and his employment was subsequently terminated.

"The school have followed all processes correctly in dealing with this matter with children's safety and wellbeing always at the heart of everything we do."

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