Thursday 22 February 2018

Judge tells schoolboy: choose the parent who goes to jail

Judge Alan Mitchell
Judge Alan Mitchell
Caroline Crawford

By Caroline Crawford

A JUDGE has told a teenage boy that he must decide which of his parents will be sent to jail for a month -- and which will receive a suspended sentence.

Judge Alan Mitchell made the decision during a case brought against the boy's parents because of his failure to attend school.

The 15-year-old from Galway had a long history of skipping school and the court heard that this had continued even after the boy was made aware of the possible consequences for his parents.

Adjourning the matter until today, Judge Mitchell said: "He can consider which of his parents he wants to go to prison for 21 days and which gets the suspended sentence."

He added that if needs be the teenager should attend Galway District Court today to make the decision.

"If every teenage child could direct whether to go to school or not there would be anarchy in this country," added Judge Mitchell, who described the current situation as "totally unacceptable".

Paul McCavera, Galway city education welfare officer with the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), told Galway District Court that the 15-year-old had missed 91 days of school out of 114 this school year to date.

Mr McCavera said there had been a "long history of engagement with the family" but this had ended last year.

Both parents had previously been summonsed to court but the father had failed to attend, resulting in a bench warrant being issued for him.

Mr McCavera added that a range of support services had been offered to the family both inside and outside of the school, but they had failed to avail of any.

He agreed with a solicitor for the family, Alma Whelan, that the teen had no interest in attending school. However, he rejected the suggestion that the family had done everything they could to persuade him to attend.

The court heard that the boy in question was "a very pleasant child" who had no discipline problems in school.

"He does not have any special education needs and there are no discipline issues in the school. He is not disruptive, as a child he is very pleasant," added Mr McCavera.

The NEWB officer described the teenager as bright, adding that he believed the boy would easily pass his Junior Certificate.

Ms Whelan told the court that the teenager did not feel that he fitted in at school and had no wish to be there.

Instead he hoped to do a course in mechanics.

However, Mr McCavera told the court that this could not done until the teenager had reached the age of 16.

Ms Whelan said the teen realised the seriousness of the case and does not want to go down the road of being unemployed in his future.

Judge Mitchell said he may consider suspending any sentence until the end of the school term in order to review the teenager's attendance from now until the end of the school year.

"If he wants his mother or father to go to prison he should continue on the way he is," added Judge Mitchell.

The case will continue today.

Irish Independent

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