Judge tells mother that depriving teen of school 'is child abuse of worst kind'

Gordon Deegan

A judge has told a mother that to deprive a child of education “is child abuse of the worst kind”.

At Kilrush District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan told the mother that if she didn’t address her 14-year-old child’s absenteeism from school, he would be sending her off to Limerick prison in a 'Paddywagon'.

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The mother began to weep and Judge Durcan told her: “I know you’re upset. I don’t do upset.”

He said: “What I am trying to do is to protect the children.”

Judge Durcan said that he wanted the case brought back before him on a fortnightly basis in order to monitor the case closely and he said: “There is no reason why this child should be abused in this fashion.”

In the case, the woman has pleaded guilty to a charge under the Education Welfare Act of failing to cause her child to attend school on April 17 last and subsequent days.

Solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA), Kevin Sherry told the court that there is a “chronic history of absenteeism in relation to the child who is 14 and is in 3rd year”.

Judge Durcan asked that the mother come towards the bench and he told her: “What I have read in the report from the CFA and what Mr Sherry has outlined to me now is nothing short of appalling.”

He said: “It is child abuse of the worst kind - that is what is being outlined to me."

Judge Durcan said: “To use those words indicate in our society one particular thing but in the view of this court, child abuse can arise in many ways."

He said: “To deprive a child of education or to ensure that a child doesn’t get an education is child abuse of the worst kind.”

Judge Durcan said: “You are the one who has the responsibility, you are the one if you don’t get this matter resolved, you will leave this court-house in a Paddywagon and go to Limerick prison.”

Judge Durcan said that one day missed so far in the current school year “is not acceptable”.

The case was initially referred to the Education and Welfare Service in October 2017 and Mr Sherry said that the teenager “has effectively missed 100 days in post-primary education in the last two school years”.

He said: “The school attendance notice issued in April 2018 and there have been nine absences since that date.”

Mr Sherry said that the child’s school is unaware of any medical reasons or otherwise why there has been such a chronic level of absenteeism.

Mr Sherry said: “Since the summons issued, there does seem to be some level of improvement and only one day missed during the new school year and it is an improvement on where we were.”

Judge Durcan adjourned the case to Ennis District Court on September 28.

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