East Lancs mum taken to court after taking son out of school to be with dying grandfather (From Chorley Citizen)
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East Lancs mum taken to court after taking son out of school to be with dying grandfather
Updated 11:18am Monday 19th May 2014 in East Lancashire
A MOTHER who took her son out of school so he could go on a final holiday with his dying grandfather said she was appalled to be taken to court on truancy charges.
Sally Randall, 35, said the 10-day break was the dying wish of her father-in-law Graham Crisp.
Mr Crisp, who had pancreatic cancer, died three months after the holiday to Majorca.
Ms Randall said she had asked Norden High School, Rishton, for permission to take her 13-year-old son James out of class for the trip but the request was refused because it was not ‘an exceptional circumstance’.
This week, she appeared at Blackburn Magistrates’ Court where she was given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to failing to send a child to school.
She had wanted to plead not guilty but was told the only defences available to her were that: The headteacher had authorised the absence; sickness covered by medical evidence; religious observance; or failure by the local authority to provide transport.
As none of these applied to her situation Ms Randall pleaded guilty, but explained to magistrates why she had taken her child out of school.
Ms Randall, who has two other sons Joe, five, and Beaudie, three, told the court she went ahead with the holiday, which was being paid for by James’ grandparents, as she wanted to fulfil Mr Crisp’s wish of a last family break.
In court she said: “It was his last holiday with his grandchildren.
“I feel it’s an exceptional circumstance, because of the memories and photographs we’ve got from this holiday.”
But on her return, the part-time support worker, who is sole carer for her three sons, was issued with a £120 fine.
An administrative error meant that the paperwork was sent to her old address, and because she had not been able to pay the fixed penalty she was forced to appear in court.
She told magistrates that the holiday had initially been planned for the Easter holidays, but Mr Crisp was taken ill and had to undergo a course of chemotherapy, which meant that the holiday had to be postponed until September.
She said she had approached the school, but had been told by the headteacher, Tim Mitchell, that it was not in his power to grant the leave.
But Ms Randall said she found out in court that the holiday was something the headteacher could have authorised.
Speaking after the hearing, she said she would now have a criminal record for the next six months until it was spent.
She said: “It’s upsetting because I’ve never been in trouble with the police in my life.
“I don’t see why I should have something on my record, no matter how small.
“I understand I broke the law, but if the headteacher doesn’t think a grandparent dying is an exceptional circumstance then I don’t know what is.
“When I spoke to the head teacher he said it’s the law, it’s not up to him.
“It’s not fair, we did send him a letter, but he said if I can afford to pay for the holiday, I can afford to pay for the fine.
“I think it’s disgusting. Graham is dead now. As soon as we came back from holiday he was more or less in the hospice.
“The kids talk about that holiday every single week. His last wish has been granted, and they’ll always remember their grandad. It’s just a shame it’s ended like this.”
Mr Mitchell said: "We don’t think it's appropriate to discuss the details of this individual case.
"The government's guidelines on absence during term time changed in September last year.
“Head teachers should only authorise a leave of absence in exceptional circumstances. These are only considered if no other option is possible and an absence from school is necessary during the term.”