A CASH strapped council has been ordered to pay £1.5m to a teacher who was found to have suffered ‘continuous and relentless bullying’ by an employment tribunal.

Karen Hall has been awarded the damages after an 11-year battle with Durham County Council which began when she blew the whistle on bullying at a village primary school.

Mrs Hall was initially awarded £59,321 in 2008 but the figure shot up after West Cornforth Primary School and the local education authority ignored a series of employment tribunal rulings which led to further hearings and costs.

The 43-year-old, who lives near Bishop Auckland, said she had her arm twisted by the headteacher, Janet Sarsfield, and had a ball thrown at her in front of her class in 2004.

She complained and further incidents came to light which eventually led to an employment tribunal finding she had suffered 18 separate acts of victimisation from that first complaint up until January 2007.

Despite winning her tribunal in 2008 and going back to work the bullying continued and she was made redundant, which a later hearing determined was as a result of the council’s ‘flagrant and deliberate disregard’ of recommendations such as helping Mrs Hall get her career back on track by pursuing headship.

At an appeal earlier this year over the size of the damages, Mr Justice Langstaff, head of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, said it was an astonishing tale.

He added: “It reflected very little credit on the local authority or the management of the school in which she was employed.

“After 2008 the tale continued. It is one of the career of a promising, able and keen teacher effectively being destroyed by what had happened to her.”

Durham County Council continues to appeal part of the ruling in a bid to reduce the payout but the longer it goes on the more interest and legal costs accrue.

Mrs Hall, who has spent more than £200,000 defending herself, said: “This has been hell for 11 years.

“I’m not outspoken but I cannot stay quiet if I think something is wrong.

“I have written to every man and his dog, begged them to listen and take notice of the rulings, I naively thought every letter I wrote and every hearing would be the last, that things would change and I could get back on with teaching.

“It just doesn’t make sense why it has got to this.

“Emotionally it has been difficult for me and my family, I wanted to teach since I was at school and loved to see that light bulb moment on a child’s face when they understood what I was teaching but now I cannot face it anymore.

“This has never been about the money, I just wanted to teach.

“Now I want an apology, which they’ve been told to give, for this not to happen to anyone else and for someone to investigate why it has cost taxpayers so much money when it could all have been remedied years ago.”

The council was unavailable to comment.

Mrs Hall said she was grateful to supporters including barrister John Falkenstein, of Newcastle, and solicitor Mike Robinson, of Redcar.