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Pregnant mum spends Christmas in jail

PUBLISHED: 16:29 26 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:14 03 March 2010

A PREGNANT Ipswich mum is spending her Christmas in prison for continually failing to send her 11-year-old daughter to school.

The woman, who cannot be named, was jailed for 28 days by magistrates on Monday and unsuccessfully appealed against the sentence at Ipswich Crown Court on Christmas Eve.

A PREGNANT Ipswich mum is spending her Christmas in prison for continually failing to send her 11-year-old daughter to school.

The woman, who cannot be named, was jailed for 28 days by magistrates on Monday and unsuccessfully appealed against the sentence at Ipswich Crown Court on Christmas Eve.

Originally the 41-year-old had appeared before Ipswich magistrates on Monday and The Evening Star successfully applied to have a court order lifted so she could be identified. However when she appeared at crown court the following day Judge Peter Thompson agreed to put the court order back on.

The woman, who is six months pregnant, had admitted an offence under the Education Act 1996 of failing to send her daughter to school.

The court heard that in September 2000 she had been fined £130 and ordered to pay £30 costs for an identical offence.

Robert Sadd prosecuting told Judge Thompson who was sitting with two magistrates that the woman appeared before South East Suffolk magistrates in September this year and sentence was deferred until December 23.

The woman was warned then by the justices that her daughter should attend her Ipswich school for at least 80 per cent of the time to the end of term. However the child only attended for part of two sessions during that period.

Mr Sadd told the court that the child had a poor attendance record since starting at primary school and between January 14 and June 28 this year she only attended three out of 194 half-day sessions.

Her truancy had followed a similar pattern at her senior school.

Dismissing the appeal Judge Thompson said the authorities had "bent over backwards" to be sympathetic and helpful to the woman over a period of more than two years.

He said the object of prosecuting her was to deliver an education to her 11-year-old daughter.

He said the woman's only mitigation was her own inadequacy and her guilty plea.

"The magistrates had to pass a prison sentence because this matter had become so serious. They also felt a message needed to be sent to parents and children as to the importance of children attending school," he said.

Michael Stephenson for the woman said she had tried to get her daughter to school but had found it impossible as the girl appeared to have some kind of phobia.

He said the girl reads, writes and does maths at home and did not appear to have an aversion to learning.

He said the family was now looking at getting a referral to an educational psychologist.

After the case Assistant Education Officer (Family Support) Elizabeth Maloney said, "It is important that we remain focused on the child's need to receive a proper education. We hope sentences imposed on these parents will show other parents the seriousness of the situation and remind them that it is important that their children attend school regularly".

The woman's husband also admitted an offence under the 1996 Education Act when he appeared before magistrates and was fined £180 and ordered to pay £50 costs.

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