No jail for troubled mum despite daughter (12) missing 118 out of 132 school days

No jail for troubled mum despite daughter (12) missing 118 out of 132 school days

THE mother of a young girl, who missed almost an entire year of school, has been spared a criminal conviction as well as a possible jail sentence due to her family problems.

The woman pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to not complying with official warnings about school attendance and breaking the Education (Welfare) Act.The case was brought by Tusla, The Child and Family Agency (CFA).

Janet Colgan, a regional manager of educational services with the CFA, told Judge John O'Neill that the 12-year-old girl missed 118 out of 132 days last year when she was in sixth class. She agreed with CFA solicitor Dorothy Ware that the family first came to the attention of education and welfare services in 2010 and they tried to work with the mother who had difficult family circumstances.

The court heard the CFA took a sympathetic approach. 

The primary school was given a number of explanations for the girl continually missing school. Ms Colgan said they included “ear infections, they had slept it out or had a court hearing in relation to another family member who was a victim of a crime the previous day, a death in the family, illness in the family, a child was sick or they had not realised school had begun or the family had to go on urgent business out of the jurisdiction”.

The court heard the woman had difficulty persuading the girl to go to school. The child has since been taken into voluntary care and is receiving an education again.

Defence solicitor Conor Ruane asked Judge O'Neill to note that the woman had difficult personal circumstances and could not cope with her daughter but had wanted her to go to school. 

She had no prior criminal connections and with a “very heavy heart” she let the child go into care. Mr Ruane also said the child will remain in voluntary care for some time.

Pleading for leniency, he also said there had been communication difficulties and the woman was extremely worried about the outcome of her case.

The education and welfare officer confirmed that a relative of the woman had been the victim of a serious crime which resulted in a lot of trauma. It also caused anxiety and co-dependency for the child and the mother, she said.

The court heard that when the girl had been in school there were never any problems with her behaviour and she was a compliant child. The family was not involved in anti-social behaviour, the judge was also told.

The woman did not address the court.

The offence can carry a one-month jail sentence and a fine of up to €1,000. However, Judge O'Neill said that due to the family circumstances and the fact that the child is now in care he was applying the Probation Act.

BY TOM TUITE @tomtuite1