Wednesday 25 April 2018

Dad jailed and mother fined after son missed 243 school days in three years

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Tom Tuite

A father has been given a one-month jail sentence and his wife was fined €1,000 today after a judge heard their child missed at least 243 days of primary school over three years.

The married couple from Dublin were prosecuted by the Child and Family Agency following concerns about the high number of days of school missed by their son whose age was not stated during the proceedings at Dublin District Court.

They failed to attend the proceedings on several dates and were aware of the case.

Sentencing in their absence, Judge John Brennan said today the couple, now living in the UK, had failed to deal with the issue and there had been nothing to stop them from attending their case.

The court also heard the father had previous convictions for deception offences. A medical report, allegedly in the mother’s maiden name, claimed she previously had an illness and another report referred to her husband’s psychological issues.

There had been 10 hearing dates since the prosecution commenced in January 2018 but the couple attend just three of them.

Their previous hearing was in February. The father phoned an education and welfare officer that morning to tell him they could not come to court because he had a “bad back”.

The officer had then told the court their son missed 72 out of 182 days in the 2014 - 2015 school year, 65 out of 182 days during the 2015 - 2016 year and 106 days in the 2016 - 2017 school year. Only about 20 days could be accounted for, the court was told.

They faced charges of breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning to ensure her child went to school.

The boy had been attending a school in Dublin. Under the Act, the minimum school leaving age is 16 years, or the completion of three years of post-primary education.

The case had been adjourned until Monday to give the mother and father an opportunity to turn up to court.

Education and welfare officer Eamon Regan said it was his belief the parents were not doing enough to ensure their child went to school. He had attempted to serve school attendances notices in person but there as no answer when he called to their home. There was also no answer on a previous occasion when he attempted to talk to them about the issue.

Afterwards he served the notices by ordinary post, he said. It had been hoped the threat of legal action would improve their son’s attendance at school, the court was told.

He said the couple moved to the UK without notifying the school. When he managed to speak to the boy’s father, the man claimed his son had been enrolled in a named school in England. However, when contacted that school never heard of the boy.

Authorities in the UK were alerted and have made contact with the parents who are now seeking to home-school the child there, the court was told.

Judge Brennan was satisfied that prior to the commencement of legal proceedings school attendance notices had been served and they were aware of the court case.

He said the couple had shown contempt for the court by not turning up to the hearing.

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