Failure to comply with a school attendance order
Parents may be prosecuted by the Local Authority for failing to comply with a school attendance order. Proceedings will be before the Magistrates’ Court. The court can impose a fine and also a Parenting Order.
Failure to secure regular attendance of a registered pupil
A parent will be guilty of an offence if a registered pupil ‘fails to attend regularly at school’. This means attendance at time expected by the Local Authority. A pupil arriving after the register has closed will be treated as absent.
There are some statutory excuses for the absence that can be argued:
- Leave of absence given by an authorised person
- Sickness of the child (not the parent)
- Unavoidable cause affecting the child, usually as an emergency
- Day of religious observance
- No suitable transport arrangements made by the Local Authority, when the school is not within walking distance
- Child is of no fixed abode and the parent has an itinerant trade; the child has attended as regularly as trade permitted; and, child is over 6 years of age and has over 200 attendances in the 12 months before the summons.
A parent will be guilty of a less serious offence where they had taken all reasonable steps to ensure attendance even if they were unaware that their child was still not attending court. The parent can receive a fine and be subject to a parenting order.
The more serious type of offence will be committed where the parent knew of the absence and failed to act. In that case the court can consider imposing a prison sentence of up to 3 months.
Even if a prosecution has commenced, it may be that a family has taken sufficient remedial steps persuade the Local Authority to withdraw proceedings.
Failure to Comply with a Direction under an Education Supervision Order
The appointed officer under an Education Supervision Order will give directions to ensure the proper education of the child. These directions may be given to the child as well as a parent. If a parent persistently fails to comply with a direction then they can be the subject of a criminal prosecution that can lead to a fine being imposed.
Breach of a Parenting Order
If a parent fails without a reasonable excuse to comply with the requirements of a Parenting Order then they will be liable for a fine or other punishment within the community.
The Availability of Legal Aid
Interviews Under Caution
If you are to be interviewed by the Local Authority under caution in relation to any of these issues then subject to your income we will be able to provide advice and representation to you during that interview. We will also be able to take the opportunity to make representations to the authority about the best way to proceed with your case, hoping to avoid criminal proceedings before the Magistrates’ Court.
Alternatively, we will be able to discuss with you whether your case can be funded by way of an affordable fixed fee, or provide you with further information about the cost of representation.
Legal aid is available for proceedings before the Magistrates’ Court. This is subject to both a means and merits test. We will be able to give you full advice on your entitlement and how best to apply to ensure free representation.