Mum charged for tack­ling teen bully

Mum who as­saulted her teen daugh­ter’s bully is dis­charged with­out con­vic­tion

Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Chelsea Boyle

Ni­cola-Jane Jenks faced ev­ery par­ents’ night­mare for de­fend­ing her daugh­ter from a bully

The 50-year-old was charged with as­sault­ing the girl who made her daugh­ter’s life a mis­ery

But she es­caped con­vic­tion, with a judge say­ing one ‘bad de­ci­sion’ should not af­fect the rest of her life ●Jenks re­grets what she did — but says it was due to our ris­ing bul­ly­ing prob­lem

An Auck­land mum lashed out and as­saulted a teenage girl who had been bul­ly­ing her daugh­ter — grab­bing her by the hair and hit­ting her re­peat­edly in the face.

But Kings­land woman Ni­cola-Jane Jenks has avoided a con­vic­tion, with a Dis­trict Court judge say­ing she had made a “bad de­ci­sion” which should not im­pact on the rest of her life.

Jenks says she re­grets the in­ci­dent but it was the “con­se­quence” of the on­go­ing bul­ly­ing.

In May Jenks as­saulted a 17-yearold near Mt Al­bert Gram­mar School af­ter re­ceiv­ing a dis­tressed phone call from her scared daugh­ter.

Her child had been bul­lied for some time and it had a huge ef­fect on the teenager.

Jenks ef­fec­tively snapped and fought back to ease her child’s suf­fer­ing. She was charged with com­mon as­sault and pleaded guilty in the Auck­land Dis­trict Court.

At sen­tenc­ing on Thurs­day, Judge Tony Fitzger­ald said Jenks had made a bad de­ci­sion un­der cir­cum­stances that would have tested any par­ent.

“You quite rightly feel ashamed for the way you acted,” he said.

The court heard two years of phys­i­cal and ver­bal bul­ly­ing had fore­shad­owed the way Jenks acted on May 14.

Judge Fitzger­ald said in Oc­to­ber 2016 the teen had thrown a bot­tle at her daugh­ter, strik­ing her in the back.

Pho­tographs show a bruise on the col­lar bone “that sug­gests it was thrown with some force” — an is­sue Jenks took up with the school and po­lice.

Over time the bul­ly­ing took a toll on Jenks’ daugh­ter. Her hair was thin­ning, she ex­pe­ri­enced panic at­tacks, and her at­ten­dance was down at school, the court heard.

May 14 was the first time Jenks had met the 17-year-old in­volved in some of her daugh­ter’s bul­ly­ing. Words were ex­changed and the vic­tim told Jenks to “f*** off” and threat­ened to hit her, the court heard.

“What you then did was in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” Judge Fitzger­ald said.

Jenks dragged the girl by her pony­tail and hit her sev­eral times with an open hand. The teenager was bruised on the left cheek and scalp.

In a vic­tim im­pact state­ment, the teenager said she no longer liked to be any­where alone and felt hu­mil­i­ated that the as­sault oc­curred in front of her peers. She had sought coun­selling since the at­tack.

Judge Fitzger­ald said an ag­gra­vat­ing fea­ture was that the as­sault hap­pened in the vicin­ity of the school where the young women should have felt safe. Both girls felt they no op­tion but to leave the school af­ter the as­sault, the court heard.

“You are 50 years old and you should have han­dled it a lot bet­ter than you did,” said Judge Fitzger­ald.

Fac­tors to be con­sid­ered in Jenks’ favour were that she had no pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions, had en­tered a guilty plea, en­gaged in vol­un­teer work and coun­selling, and had of­fered to par­take in restora­tive jus­tice.

“Your re­morse is deep and gen­uine.”

Judge Fitzger­ald granted Jenks a dis­charge with­out con­vic­tion, say­ing a con­vic­tion would make it dif­fi­cult for her to travel to other coun­tries and would com­pli­cate sim­i­lar ap­pli­ca­tions — con­se­quences out of pro­por­tion to the of­fend­ing.

Jenks’ lawyer said yes­ter­day she did not want to com­ment on the case as she felt the mat­ter had been dealt with by the court.

Af­ter her first court ap­pear­ance, in a pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished in­ter­view, Jenks said she re­gret­ted her ac­tions but said the prob­lem of bul­ly­ing in schools had to be ad­dressed.

“It’s about bul­ly­ing in schools and it just has to stop. This is the con­se­quence of it.”

MAGS prin­ci­pal Patrick Drumm said the in­ci­dent did not hap­pen on school grounds. “We do not tol­er­ate vi­o­lence, ha­rass­ment or bul­ly­ing un­der any cir­cum­stances.”

Drumm said MAGS con­sid­ered the health and safety of its stu­dents and staff as its pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity.

He was un­aware of any bul­ly­ing of Jenks’ daugh­ter dur­ing school time and un­der­stood that the con­flict arose out­side of school, be­tween two fam­i­lies, dur­ing the week­ends.

If any bul­ly­ing had been al­leged at school it would have “in­ves­ti­gated the al­le­ga­tions and dealt with the is­sue com­pre­hen­sively.”

You quite rightly feel ashamed for the way you acted. Judge Tony Fitzger­ald

● Ed­i­to­rial: Onus on schools be­yond the gate, p30


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