Wednesday 23 January 2019

Mum spared jail after son 'missed almost two years of school'

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tom Tuite

A mother, who claimed her son missed almost two years of school because he was bullied for being a member of the Travelling community, has been spared a jail sentence and a conviction.

The woman from Dublin faced prosecution by Tusla, Child and Family Agency and had been found guilty of breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning to ensure her child went to school.

However, she was given the Probation Act yesterday after Judge John Brennan learned there had been a significant improvement in the boy’s attendance at school.

The offence can result in a fine of up to one month and a €1,000 fine.

Dublin District Court heard the teen missed 100 per cent of school days last year and the year before that he was absent on 71 per cent of days.

The teenager was in secondary school, the court was told.

Under the Act, the minimum school leaving age is 16 years, or the completion of three years of post-primary education.

In April, the court heard that earlier this year he started in another school and has missed almost two thirds of days since he took up that placement.

Prosecution solicitor Orla Crowe had said a meeting was arranged with the school but the mother did not show up. The boy had only gone to school on days when transport was arranged by the school, Judge John Brennan heard.

The woman’s barrister told the court the boy was being bullied as a result of being a member of the Travelling community. The mother urges the boy to attend school and she knew there was support structures in place but should was unable to get him to go, the defence said.

It was a 40-minute walk to school and there was no bus service, the defence said.

However the prosecution solicitor said the school was two kilometres from the boy’s home and he had a bike. A report also stated the boy "mixes well with his peers".

Ms Crowe said the boy’s school attendance problem went back to 2013.

Judge Brennan had said he was giving the mother a final chance to improve attendance otherwise there would be “serious consequences”.

When the case resumed on Wednesday, the prosecuting solicitor said that out of the past 62 school days the boy had been present on 31 days, a 50 per cent attendance rate. Since the last hearing on April 25 until the end of May, the boy had missed just two days out of 20, the court was told.

Tusla was satisfied with her engagement now said Ms Crowe as she asked the judge to finalise the case. She also said the agency will continue to work with the woman.

The defence pleaded with the court to note the mother had believed her son was being bullied be cause he was a Traveller. He was now in a new environment which suited him perfectly and his attendance rate had increased substantially, counsel said.

The court heard the woman had no prior convictions and was illiterate. When letters were sent to her she had needed other family members to read them to her.

Judge Brennan also noted she was a single mother with other children to look after. While he was clear in relation to finding her guilty and the facts had been proven in the case, he said he noted her difficult situation and the circumstances relating to a certain amount of unfair discriminatory bullying.

He took these matters into account and said he was not minded to record a conviction as he applied the Probation Act. However, he warned the woman that the boy must maintain his attendance at school and if she came before the court again there will be more serious consequences.

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