CHARGES against a mother who allegedly allowed her child to play truant from school have been dropped in the first case of its kind in Edinburgh.
Lawyers acting for the parent – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – were told that Edinburgh City Council solicitors were no longer pursuing her through the courts.
The local authority had brought it own prosecution against three parents for failing to ensure their children were educated, but the first was dropped after a 30-second hearing yesterday at Edinburgh’s Justice of the Peace court.
It had been alleged that the woman allowed her child to neglect their education by allowing them to stay away from school.
Lawyers acting for the woman were told that her not guilty plea was being accepted by council lawyers.
Two other parents who also allegedly allowed their children to play truant are due to appear in the JP court on January 30. If convicted, penalties include a fine of up to £1000 or imprisonment of up to one month.
The Evening News first revealed the decision to pursue criminal charges against parents in October. In the first three cases, pupils had attendance levels of as low as 46 per cent.
The parents – had been given repeated opportunities and offers of support to improve their child’s attendance but to no avail, the council said previously.
The move has been controversial, with teaching unions warning of the difficulties in securing convictions.
Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, which represents headteachers and deputy headteachers, said other local authorities would be wary of adopting such action if future cases also collapse.
He said: “We recognise this is a difficult situation because authorities have to weigh up the need to ensure pupils are well educated, against the practicalities of securing a conviction.
“There will always be a handful of parents who will be totally uncooperative and it’s difficult to decide what course of action to take. If you ignore them it sends out the message that you can do what you like and if you take them to court you have to consider the money and time it’s going to take.”
Since 2007, North Lanarkshire Council has taken 74 parents to court but just three have been convicted.
Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, added: “This case demonstrates the sheer difficulties of this as an issue.
“From a teacher’s point of view there are parents who are clearly guilty of failing to ensure their children get an education but nobody appears to be able to put pressure on them.
“The only possible solution we could suggest is having classes for young parents to try to give them the skills to improve their kids’ discipline.”
A spokeswoman for the council said: “We have recently received some new information relating to this case which we were not aware of previously; as a result we have decided prosecution is not appropriate.”