A judge has warned a 15-year-old who persistently skips school that his parents will take turns in prison if he does not attend school for the next month.
Judge Alan Mitchell had heard evidence at Galway District Court that the boy had missed 91 school days out of 114 this year, and had a long history of truancy.
The case is being taken by the National Education Welfare Board.
Hearing that the boy did not want to go back to school even though he had been made aware his parents could be jailed for a month, the judge had invited the boy to decide which parent should go to prison for his non-attendance at school, and gave him 24 hours to reach his decision.
In court yesterday, Judge Mitchell said he had given the boy time to decide which parent should go to prison and now wanted his decision.
Defence solicitor Valerie Corcoran said that while she understood the court’s sentiments, she was not permitting the child to address the court because of his age.
She said he did not want either of his parents to go to prison and she had been assured by both the parents and the child that he would be attending school from today.
Judge Mitchell said the purpose of adjourning the matter on Tuesday for one day was to give the boy an opportunity to reach a clear understanding that his actions would have consequences.
Ms Corcoran said again that the child and his parents had assured her he would go to school until the end of the school year. She said he would be reaching his 16th birthday towards the end of term and there would be other developments then, she said. She suggested the court should adjourn sentence and “keep a tight rein” on the matter to ensure compliance.
Judge Mitchell warned the boy and his parents that he was adjourning the matter on the basis that he attends school every day until the end of this term and for the three days after the Easter break, up to when the court sits on Apr 10.
“We all have to do things we do not like,” said the judge.
“We all have respons-ibilities. Your parents, one or both, can be sent to prison for up to one month if you do not go to school. You have to obey your parents and you have to obey the law as well.”
Judge Mitchell told the boy that if he had aspirations to attend a Fás course and further his education with a view to becoming a mechanic, he would not get onto any course without at least having completed his Junior Certificate.
“I will have no qualms in jailing both your parents, not at the same time, but I can put one in when the other comes out and I can keep doing that,” said the judge.
“If you want to be a mechanic you need to go to school.”
He commended the teenager to want to make something of his life by wanting to work but he warned him again about sending his parents to jail if he didn’t comply. “If you do not want them to go to jail, and you want to get a qualification, you have to go to school.”
Judge Mitchell warned both parents to have their bags packed on Apr 10 if the boy was not in school in the interim because one of them would be going to jail that day.
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