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Monday 5 December 2016

Dad avoids prison after son skipped school for one year

The court heard that welfare officials felt the parents had not done enough to ensure attendance (Stock picture)
The court heard that welfare officials felt the parents had not done enough to ensure attendance (Stock picture)

A father who did not believe there was "any harm" in his teenage son skipping school for a year has been spared a jail sentence.

Dublin District Court heard that as a last resort Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, had to bring proceedings against the man and his wife over serious concerns about the number of school days missed by their son who is in his mid-teens.

Judge John O'Neill fined the father €300 and issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the mother who did not attend the court case for an eighth time.

He noted that the boy's father was pleading guilty to breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning about school attendance.

Education and welfare officer Ruth Dillon told Judge O'Neill that the boy had been referred to Tusla in March last year, by which stage he had missed 72 days of school that year. He already had a history of non-attendance going back to when he was in primary school.

A school attendance notice was issued to the parents last November, which was the last step before initiating a prosecution and coming to court.

The couple would not engage and a summons was issued in February.

Welfare

The boy did not return to school last year at all, though he attended this September but has only turned up for just under 50pc of days.

During the summer the family applied for home schooling for the youth but that was not deemed suitable.

The court heard that welfare officials felt the parents had not done enough to ensure attendance.

The teenager was in court with his father, but neither of them spoke. However, defence counsel Matthew Holmes said the defendant and his other children left education at the same age as the boy who is the subject of the proceedings.

Mr Holmes said the man believed "it has not done them any harm". The boy's older siblings have got various jobs or joined courses, the court was told.

The teenager had some issues in school and had been getting "slagging", but his attendance had improved significantly, counsel said.

He did not fully understand his father risked being sent to jail as a consequence, Mr Holmes said.

The father has a clean record and had done his best to get his son to school, counsel said. Pleading for leniency, he said the family was of limited means.

Alan Doyle, prosecuting, said the explanations were not good enough.

Judge O'Neill said the boy is the loser and warned that many youths who stop going to school end up coming before the courts.

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