Monday 26 August 2019

Mum jailed after boy missed more than 240 days of school released after two days pending appeal

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tom Tuite

A DUBLIN mother, who was given a three-week jail sentence after her eight-year-old son missed more than 240 school days over two years, has been released to appeal her case.

The woman, who is in her 30s, was convicted at Dublin District Court of neglecting the boy’s education following a prosecution by Tusla, Child and Family Agency.

Imposing the sentence on Monday, Judge Anthony Halpin did not accept the woman had been doing her best to get her child to school and the situation got worse since her trial in October when sentencing was adjourned.

In the event of an appeal bail was set at €1,500.

She has since signed the bail bond in the District Court and was released to appeal the outcome of the case in the Circuit Court.

When he imposed the sentence the judge had said, “I’m not satisfied the defendant has got the message”.

He added that she had, “not learned anything from the court hearing, the child is suffering and his development has been significantly effected”.

A parent could be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month if convicted of breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warnings about a child’s school attendance.

Under the Act the minimum school leaving age was raised to 16 years or the completion of three years of post-primary education.

The lone parent had been found guilty following a hearing on October 8 last and Judge Halpin noted her son’s school attendance continued to get worse.

The west Dublin mother had been cleared of the same charge in relation to the child’s older sibling who was suspected of suffering from depression and anxiety.

The boy had been absent from the school roll on 139 out of 175 days during the 2017-2018 year. That was a 79 per cent absent rate.

From September until the trial he not present on 13 days.

Since the trial 2018-2019 year there were 134 school days and the boy had missed 90 of them, an absent rate of 67 per cent, Judge Halpin was told.

An education and welfare officer told the court, this “was going to have an obvious effect on teaching and learning” for the boy.

She agreed there were concerns the woman failed to put in place a routine to ensure her son attended school. This had a knock-on effect on a speech and language service provided to the boy who attended five out of nine of those sessions since November.

The school principal had given evidence of learning and development delay which was “inextricably linked” to the child’s attendance.

Pleading for leniency, the defence said teachers agreed the boy was bright, enjoyed school and seemed happy.

An older sibling of the boy was thought to have anxiety and depression and it had been difficult for the mother to get that child to school as well. Sometimes the eight-year-old boy mimicked that behaviour, counsel said.

He had also needed to get his tonsils taken out, the court heard. Counsel said health problems impacted on the boy’s ability to go to school.

The barrister said the woman was the sole carer for her children and was doing her best, the defence pleaded.

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