THE father of an autistic boy said his school could offer no explanation when he came home bruised, a court heard.

On a further occasion the boy appeared to have a cigarette burn, which his father could not remember being accounted for by anyone at Thornhill Park School, in Sunderland.

The parent was speaking on the fourth day of the trial of Laurence Donkin, a senior carer at the Carley Hill residential unit of the school.

Mr Donkin, 44, is accused of seven counts of wilfully ill-treating a child under 16 in his care.

The father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was one of several parents who gave evidence at Durham Crown Court yesterday.

He told the court that his son, who could become violent, was capable of self-harm as well as inflicting injuries on those in his vicinity.

"My son would get a lot of bumps and bruises. There was nothing he got at the school that was particularly bad, but nothing was ever explained," he said.

"One time he came home with a mark on the back of his hand that looked like a cigarette burn."

The father said his son "hated" going back to the school.

The court was told that the school's care facilities underwent a two-yearly inspection by Sunderland City Council's social services department, while Ofsted also staged inspections of the educational provision at Thornhill Park.

Mr Donkin, of Brockenhurst Drive, Hastings Hill, Sunderland, denies the charges.

He is due to take to the witness box to give evidence today.