Pupil’s mother harassed student welfare officer at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds

Court report
Court report

An estranged mother who decided to take an interest in her son’s education resorted to harassing a member of staff out of frustration, a court has heard.

Elizabeth Challis, 41, of Dogwood Walk, RAF Lakenheath, pleaded guilty to harassment without violence at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

Prosecuting, Wayne Ablett said Challis had not had contact with her 16-year-old son for four years before finding out he was attending West Suffolk College, in Bury.

“She started taking an interest in how he was getting on and contacted the college in 2013 for updates and progress reports,” he said.

At first the college obliged Challis’ request, but when she became concerned about some of the content of the reports and asked for further information, her son’s father was contacted.

For four months after, from January 7 this year, Challis sent numerous emails and made repeated phone calls - as many as 18 in under two hours - to Sarah Louise Neesam, the college’s student welfare officer.

They were ‘aggressive, abusive and insulting’ and caused ‘a great deal of stress’ to the victim, who worried about things escalating with further contact, said Mr Ablett.

“She was told on several occasions the contact wasn’t appropriate,” he added.

Sarah Smeeth, of the probation service, told the court Challis had assumed the informal relationship she had had with her son’s previous school would continue at the college.

The college provided one report but refused to provide any more without written confirmation she was entitled to them.

Challis became ‘increasingly frustrated’ and her enquiries became ‘increasingly abusive’, said Ms Smeeth.

“I’m concerned if we don’t deal with this problem now, this could go on with other professionals.

“Sarah Louise Neesam does fantastic work at the college and should be allowed to go to work freely, without looking over her shoulder to see if Miss Challis is going to approach her in person,” she told the court.

Challis received a 12 month community order to include supervision and six sessions on a women’s emotional wellbeing course.

She was also issued with a 12 month restraining order preventing her from contacting the victim or going to the college and was ordered to pay £40 towards costs and a £60 victim surcharge.