Bond for teacher over dry-ice assault 

A Central Coast school teacher found guilty of assaulting eight students by daring them to handle dry ice was on Tuesdayhanded a two-year good behaviour bond and ordered to continue treatment for a mental disorder.

In sentencing Damien Hilton in Toronto Local Court on Tuesday, Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson also ordered that no conviction be recorded against the 50-year-old.

Magistrate Atkinson told Hilton that he had been ‘‘in a position of trust’’ and ‘‘didn’t provide proper care’’, adding that his 12- and 13-year-old victims ‘‘were vulnerable’’.

Hilton was found guilty in April on eight counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against Year 7 students at Terrigal High School in February last year.

One of the students received severe burns to his hand after Hilton, a casual teacher at the school, had dared the science students to hold dry ice in their hands for as long as possible. The young victim now uses a laptop at school because he cannot hold a pen. The other seven students received burns and injuries of a lesser nature.

In court on Tuesday, counsel for Hilton, Stuart Bouveng, argued that Hilton’s mental disorder should be taken into account when sentencing.

‘‘There was no direct application of force (against the students),’’ he said, adding that Hilton’s behaviour was ‘‘reckless’’ rather than ‘‘intentional’’.

Magistrate Atkinson agreed on that point, but rejected an application to sentence Hilton under mental health legislation.

‘‘They are still serious offences,’’ she said.

Magistrate Atkinson heard that Hilton was on a community treatment order for his mental illness at the time of the offences.

‘‘What is of concern,’’ she said, ‘‘is that the treatment plan has been in place for many, many years and there have been lapses (when Hilton failed to take his medication).’’

Hilton had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Magistrate Atkinson sentenced him under criminal law to a two-year good behaviour bond, with no conviction recorded. She said her sentence was conditional on Hilton remaining under supervision and complying with a community treatment order, meaning he needs to stay on the medication he is being treated with.

The court heard earlier that Hilton has been banned from teaching, but is now studying pharmacy.

Outside court, Hilton and his solicitor were offered the opportunity to apologise to the injured students and comment on the sentence, but the offer was ignored.

Damien Hilton leaving Toronto Court on Tuesday afternoon.

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