Mother avoids jail despite child missing almost full school year

The school girl missed 142 days in a year. Stock image
The school girl missed 142 days in a year. Stock image

A mother, whose 15-year-old child missed 142 school days in a year, has been spared a jail sentence.

The woman, who has depression, was fined €250 fined after she was prosecuted by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) at Dublin District Court. The case was brought as a result of the number of days her child missed since September 2014 – which amount to almost an entire school year.

Today Judge John O'Neill was furnished with a psychiatric report on the woman and he commented that the case was a “grey area”, adding, “How do you force a 15-year-old to go to school if a 15-year-old says no?”

He noted she had pleaded guilty and had begun to co-operate with education and welfare officers.

At an earlier stage, he had been 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 had 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.

She could have been 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, had told the court that from September 2014 until the beginning of the summer holidays last year, the woman's daughter missed 142 out of 165 school days. Today, she said the CFA argued that the damage was done at an earlier stage by a lack of barriers being put up by the mother to support the child in school.

She has missed at least 21 school days in September with just five them covered by a doctor's certificate. 

Earlier, Judge O'Neill had 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 admitted she lacked parenting skills and engaged sporadically with the educational authorities. He had also said that 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 had agreed the woman had missed appointments but had asked for her to be given a chance to mend her ways.

Judge O'Neill had warned earlier that 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.”