Truant's mum given suspended sentence

A MOTHER-OF-SEVEN whose daughter missed nearly a third of her lessons before dropping out of school has been given a suspended prison sentence.Gillian Smith, 40, of Fitzwilliam Close, Ipswich, was convicted of failing to ensure her daughter - who cannot be named for legal reasons - attended school.

A MOTHER-OF-SEVEN whose daughter missed nearly a third of her lessons before dropping out of school has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Gillian Smith, 40, of Fitzwilliam Close, Ipswich, was convicted of failing to ensure her daughter - who cannot be named for legal reasons - attended school.

Sentencing her at Ipswich Crown Court, Judge John Devaux criticised Smith as a “bad example” to her children.

As well as giving Smith a two-month prison sentence suspended for 21 months, he said she would also be subject to a 21-month supervision order and a 12-month parenting order.

Smith can be named today after the media challenged a court order which would have prevented her being identified.

In modifying the order, Judge Devaux said: “It seems to me this is a serious matter and it seems to me that there is no good reason why you yourself should not be named.”

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The charge related to a period between June 26 and December 19 last year when Smith's daughter was aged 15 and therefore had to attend school by law.

April Plant, prosecuting on behalf of Suffolk County Council's education department, said: “During the period of the summons there were a possible 176 sessions (the child) could have attended school and during that period she only attended 49 of these.

“Two of these absences were authorised by the school. The remaining 125 were unauthorised. Her attendance was around the 28 per cent mark during the period.”

The court heard that education welfare officers became involved and meetings were arranged with Smith. Although she missed some of them, improvement was reportedly made.

However, when the court summons was issued, her daughter dropped out of school completely and now, at the age of 16, has not been back.

After Smith failed to attend court hearings, a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Smith pleaded guilty to the charge and was committed to crown court for sentence. This was because the offence was in breach of a previous suspended sentence given in March last year at Basildon Crown Court - a conviction for threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards another person.

Michael Stephenson, mitigating, said Smith had to cope with an “inordinate amount of family problems”.