IT is now 16 months since Ann Train’s life was turned upside down after her daughter Jessica committed suicide at their Wallsend home.
The 15-year-old had been a victim of bullying for three years, and when that all became too much for her to bear, the teenager took her own life by hanging herself in the kitchen of her family home.
That was on April 27, 2010, and now, almost a year and a half on, her mum is stepping up her campaign for bullying to be acknowledged as a criminal offence under harassment laws and is taking a petition to the House of Commons.
Ann said: “The message I am trying to get across is that trivial things like smoking in a public place and dropping litter, you can get a fine for them, but there is nothing when it comes to bullying, and I can’t understand that.
“It does not seem right that there are no consequences. It’s not a criminal offence to bully, but it’s an offence to drop litter in the street. We are talking about children’s lives.”
Until she was pushed to breaking point by bullying, Jessica had been a typical happy schoolgirl. She was keen on horse-riding and had a crush on Aston Merrygold of the boy band JLS, her mum recalls.
Ann describes her as a little bit shy and reserved but genuinely caring.
However, the torment that she suffered at the hands of bullies, some of whom once stood outside a salon while Jessica was getting her hair cut and ran their fingers across their throats, led to her succumbing to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
“I want to raise awareness of the effect bullying has and get a legislation passed to make bullying a criminal offence,” Ann said.
She wants bullying to be recognised as a serious issue.
If intervention from schools does not stop it, other authorities should become involved and that would hopefully act as a deterrent, she believes.
This Saturday, Ann, along with some family and friends will be at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle collecting signatures on for a petition to be sent to the House of Commons in London.
Ann said: “I want as many people as possible to sign the petition. We want to make the general public aware that this is a big issue, and it needs to be addressed.
“We will be there from 9.30am and will stay as long as we can.
“People need to know that bullying is not fun. It’s not a game. It can destroy lives.”
Ann has the support of North Tyneside councillor Lesley Spillard.
Coun Spillard, of Battle Hill, is also backing a separate online campaign in support of a new government suicide prevention strategy.
Ann has been in touch with the Department of Health and it has said it will welcome her petition as part of a consultation process on the proposed strategy due to close next month.
Coun Spillard said: “We have an opportunity to make a difference to the lives of children who are or will be bullied in the future.
“No child should have to suffer as Jessica did. No parent should have to feel the ongoing pain that Ann Train does.
“As she said to me, she has not chosen this path, but for them she will travel it.
“If you would like to support the campaign, sign the online petition and share it with your friends.”
The online petition can be found at www.ipetitions.com/petition/tacklingthebullies, and the paper petition to be sent to Parliament is available to sign in Newcastle city centre on Saturday or in shops in Hadrian Park and Wallsend.
Ann added: “In the beginning, I felt angry, but I would be wasting my life being angry with the bullies.
“I do not feel anything for these people, and I don’t think my daughter would want me to feel angry.
“She would want something positive to come out of it, and I think she would be very proud.”
A Facebook page, Tackling the Bullies – Jessica’s Law, has also been set up to keep supporters up to date about the campaign.