Judge orders psychiatric report on mum whose child missed 142 school days

Dublin Courts of Criminal Justice
Dublin Courts of Criminal Justice

SENTENCING of a mother, whose 15-year-old child missed 142 school days last year, has been adjourned for a psychiatric report to be prepared.

The woman, who has depression, is facing prosecution by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) at Dublin District Court due to the number of days her child has missed since September 2014 – which amount to almost an entire school year.

Judge John O'Neill was furnished with welfare reports detailing lack of engagement with education authorities as well as other issues and he gave her a harsh warning that she must begin to co-operate. 

He said she did not want to help herself and no-one can force her but her 15-year-old daughter's “whole future is in the balance” and she was suffering because of her mother's attitude.

The mother could be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month for breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning to ensure her child went to school. 

Dorothy Ware, solicitor for the CFA, has told the court that from September 2014 until the beginning of the summer holidays this year, the woman's daughter missed 142 out of 165 school days. 

Since  going back to school in September this year, the child has been absent for 21 out of 35 days with just five them covered by a doctor's certificate. The court heard the child lives weekdays with her mother.

Judge O'Neill said that normally the difficulty in these cases is created by the child but not in this instance. 

He noted from welfare reports that the woman is on medication for depression, she admits she lacked parenting skills and engages sporadically with the educational authorities. 

He also said  there had been suggestions of child abuse notifications.

She had also been offered counselling for her child but follow-up appointments were not attended.

Her barrister agreed the woman had missed appointments and was not making progress. He asked for her to be given a chance to mend her ways but the judge then said he noted her child has continued missing days.

He said the woman's behaviour was wrong and warned that she is now in “serious difficulty”.

He said continually failing to attend the appointments would lead him to “adopt the attitude that person does not really care and I will come down on that person”.

He agreed to adjourn the case until December for psychiatric report on the mother to be furnished to the court.