News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Bristol Mother Jailed for Daughter's Failure to Attend School

Today's report in the Evening Post that a South Bristol mother has been sentenced to 21 days in prison for failing to ensure that her 14-year old daughter attended school is a worrying one.

Whenever laws are enacted that have the potential to deprive citizens of their liberties, governments always attempt to reassure us that these measures will only be used "as a very last resort" and when all other measures have been exhausted and failed.

Against that backdrop, it is somewhat concerning to read that "Bristol City Council last year prosecuted 100 parents because their children had missed school." 100 parents!

If we make an assumption that Bristol is fairly average in this respect, and multiply this incidence across the country as a whole, that suggests that every year thousands of families are being brought before the courts for not sending their children to school. Of course the vast majority of these parents were not sent to prison but were fined - £50 is the first level of penalty.

A basic question needs to be asked about this growing trend: are the children better or worse off after their parent or parents have been fined or imprisoned?

Note, I am not asking "should the parents be held responsible?" I am asking "are the children better off after this action has been taken?" It is the individual child, after all, who is the most important person in this scenario and the one whose interests are paramount. Will this child be better off or worse off by having her mother taken into custody for two weeks?

A footnote: as well as 100 parents being brought to court for non-attendance of their children, an additional 40 were charged with non payment of fines.

Is this being tough on the (economic) causes of crime or just tough on people who are an easy target for zealous politicians and civil servants with targets to hit?

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email or RSS.

No comments:

Site Meter