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Mum weeps as she gets jail over son missing 229 school days in two years

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Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

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A Dublin mother wept in court as she was jailed for three weeks after her eight-year-old son missed almost 230 school days in less than two years.

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

Judge Anthony Halpin did not accept she had done her best to get her child to school, and the situation got worse following her trial in October when sentencing was adjourned.

"I'm not satisfied the defendant has got the message," he said.

"[She had] not learned anything from the court hearing.

"The child is suffering, and his development has been significantly affected".

A parent can be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month for not complying with official warnings about a child's school attendance.

The west Dublin lone parent had been found guilty following a hearing last October 8.

She had been cleared of the same charge in relation to the child's older sibling who was suspected of suffering from depression and anxiety.

Absent

Education and welfare officer Georgina Traynor agreed with prosecutor Shane Reynolds that the boy had been absent from the school roll on 139 out of 175 days during the 2017-18 year, a 79pc absence rate.

Judge Halpin was told that so far in the 2018-19 year, he has missed 90 out of 134 days (67pc absence).

Ms Traynor said this "was going to have an obvious effect on teaching and learning" for him.

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 had attended five out of nine of those sessions since November.

Judge Halpin noted the school principal had given evidence of learning and development delay which was "inextricably linked" to the child's attendance.

Pleading for leniency, defence counsel Beatrice Vance 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, Ms Vance said.

He had also needed to get his tonsils taken out, the court was told.

Ms Vance said health problems impacted on the boy's ability to go to school, that his mother was the sole carer for her children and was doing her best.

However, the judge said he did not agree she was putting in her best effort.

A doctor's report stated there had been a "blanket refusal" by the boy to engage with the school.

Sentence

The judge said he thought there would have to be an improved attendance level for a mitigation plea to have any reality and that there was no alternative but to impose the custodial sentence.

The woman, accompanied to court by her mother, wept as sentence was passed. She did not give evidence yesterday.

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