THE teacher at the centre of a false indecent assault allegation which sparked a high-profile strike at a Lisburn school spoke for the first time today about the devastating blow it dealt to his life and career. David Bell, a technology and design teacher, gave the Belfast Telegraph his side of events which led to 53 of his teaching colleagues picketing outside Laurelhill Community College for four days. The south Belfast man, a teacher there since 1991, hit out at the “paralysing nightmare of false abuse allegations which is becoming a reality for an ever-increasing number of teachers everywhere”. The 49-year-old said his ordeal began in June 2002 when he was approached by young female pupil “who appeared distressed” and had been upset earlier when he criticised her class work. “I responded by touching the pupil under the chin with my finger and saying ‘cheer up’,” he said. “A week or so later she allegation that my innocently intended contact had been both violent and indecent. When the case eventually came to court, almost two years later, I escaped the very real possibility of going to jail only because another member of staff had been present in the classroom and, crucially, another pupil, who was a key witness for the prosecution, withdrew her evidence.” Mr Bell was cleared of indecent assault in April last year. He admitted assault by touching the girl under the chin and was given an absolute discharge. “My freely-admitted contact with the pupil’s chin appeared to constitute a ‘technical’ assault, I saw no alternative but to plead guilty to this and accept the court’s absolute discharge.