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Father didn't think there was 'any harm' in son missing year of school

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Counsel said that the father has a clean record and had done his best to ensure the teen went to school
Counsel said that the father has a clean record and had done his best to ensure the teen went to school

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 (CFA), 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 eight time.

He noted that the youth'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 the CFA in March 2015 by which stage the boy 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 in November 2015 which was the last step before initiating a prosecution and coming to court.

Ms Dillon agreed with prosecution solicitor Alan Doyle that the couple would not engage and there was no other option but to have a summons issued in February.

He did not return to school last year at all however he came back this September but has only turned up for just under 50 per cent of days.

During the summer the family applied for home schooling for the youth but that was not deemed suitable. The court heard that the welfare agency was of the view that the parents had not done all was in their power to ensure attendance.

The teenager was in court with his father but neither of them addressed the court.

Defence counsel Matthew Holmes told the court that the defendant and his other children left education at the same age as the boy who was the subject of the proceedings.

Mr Holmes said the man believed “it has not done them any harm”. The boy's older siblings have gone on to get various jobs or 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.

Counsel said that the father has a clean record and had done his best to ensure the teen went to school. He prepared his lunch and packed his bag but the boy did not turn up.

Pleading for leniency, he said the family was of limited means.

Mr Doyle, prosecuting, said the explanations were not good enough and the child was not getting an education. Judge O'Neill agreed that a school attendance prosecution against a parent is only taken as a last resort. He did not accept the father's explanation and said kids need routine and discipline in their lives

He said the boy is the loser and he warned that a lot of youths who stop going to school end up come coming before the Children's Court and later the Criminal Courts of Justice. He spared a him a sentence and allowed him six months to pay the fine but he issued a bench warrant for the mother who claimed she could not come to court because of health problems.