A FORMER Co Down primary school vice-principal was yesterday ordered to pay damages to a pupil he assaulted when the boy was nine. Bernard McCreanor and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) were instructed to pay £1,500 in compensation to Felim Crane plus legal costs. The ruling in Downpatrick crown court ended a three-and-a-half-year fight by the boy’s family. “It was never about the money, it was the principle,” Felim’s mother, Roisin Perry, said. Her husband, Edward Crane, added: “Felim didn’t want to go to school at the time. He was petrified.” The Downpatrick family lodged a civil claim for personal injuries, loss and damage arising from assault and battery to Felim at St Patrick’s Boys’ Primary School in the town. Both Mr McCreanor, from Downpatrick, and the CCMS had admitted liability to the incident, when Felim suffered a blow to the head on January 27 1997. Felim, now aged 12, had been seeking £3,000, but after consultation with legal representatives yesterday, Judge Isobel Brownlee decided against this amount. It is understood a psychologist’s report was carried out after the assault but that it found no evidence of prolonged mental illness. However, a legal representative said the “aggravated circumstances” of the “assault and victimisation” of a pupil by a teacher led the judge to increase damages from £1,000 to £1,500. Mr McCreanor, who is thought to be in his late fifties, was not in court yesterday to hear the ruling. It is understood he retired from teaching after the incident. Last night the CCMS was unable to comment fully on the case, but confirmed the matter had been investigated. It is believed the case has never been considered for criminal prosecution. An RUC spokesman said: “It’s a civil matter on which we cannot comment.” A solicitor from Madden and Finucane, who represented the family, said: “Our client and his family feel vindicated by this result. Young Felim can now get on with his life and put this behind him.” Child protection guidelines revised in 1998 state that physical contact with pupils is permitted only in the context of self-defence and restraint – and the minimum force necessary should be used. NASUWT regional official Tom McKee, whose union had no involvement in yesterday’s case, claimed the guidelines left teachers generally in a difficult position. “If you feel threatened you have to make an instantaneous decision about what the minimum degree of force is – as a court of law would deem long afterwards,” he said. “If teachers don’t restrain pupils they can be open to allegations of negligence, and if they do they may be open to allegations of assault.”