Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh mother fined £150 over teenage girl's truancy

A mother has been fined £150 for failing to send her daughter to school.

The 14-year-old had an attendance rate of less than 50%, Edinburgh's Justice of the Peace Court heard.

Another teenage truant's father pleaded guilty to the same charge. His sentence was deferred until June, when his son's attendance for this academic year will be assessed.

City of Edinburgh Council said it took the rare move of bringing them to court to help improve attendance at school.

It said it would also help with pupil participation and performance.

Although Glasgow Council regularly uses powers under the Education Act, there had been no similar prosecutions in Edinburgh for about 20 years.

The 49-year-old mother, a laundry worker, had denied failing to send her daughter to school without reasonable excuse.

Justice Ian Malcolm was told by defence solicitor Sandra Walker that, following advice from welfare officer Linda McGregor, attempts to take away the girl's mobile phone as "a sanction" had been met with "shouting and screeching" - and the girl was bigger than her mother.

A "contract" to give the daughter £2 per day if she went to school had led to a short-lived improvement.

"She is a difficult child," said Ms Walker. "There have been volatile outbursts at school.

"Just because her approach from time to time differed from Lisa McGregor's doesn't mean she wasn't doing her best."

However, JP Malcolm disagreed and found the mother guilty.

Behaviour 'improved'

The court also heard that the father of the boy, who is in third year at High School, had a "difficult" relationship with his father at the time.

Even although his father knew that he was not going to school, he refused to confront or reprimand him about his conduct and he only made it into class on 159 out of 335 school days.

The man pleaded guilty under section 35 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to failing to ensure that his son attended school between August 2011 and June last year.

Defence solicitor Steven Donald said: "The last thing his father wanted was for this to become an issue. He found it difficult to trust his son. He knew his son was not going to school."

Mr Donald said the father had a part-time job. His mother worked full time and the father was in charge of ensuring that his son attended school.

The court heard that, since June, the boy's school had reported a major improvement in the teenager's behaviour.

Mr Malcolm said he had considered a fine but deferred sentence until June.

Neither parents, children nor the schools involved, can be identified for legal reasons.

The prosecutions were brought as part of crackdown on truancy by the City of Edinburgh Council. Penalties faced by parents include a fine of up to £1,000 and imprisonment.

Council education committee convener Paul Godzik said: "These successful prosecutions send out a clear message that those who continuously refuse to work with our staff will answer for their child's poor attendance in court."

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