Mum In Court For Taking Son To See Dying Grandad During Term Time

A mum who took her son to see his grandad in Majorca one last time before he died has ended up with a criminal record – because she took the boy out of school during term-time.

Sally Randall, 35, had taken son James, 13, on a 10-day break, which was the dying wish of her father-in-law Graham Crisp.

He had pancreatic cancer and died three months later.

Sally said she had asked Norden High School, Rishton, Lancashire, for permission to take her teenage son James out of class for the trip but the request was refused because it was not 'an exceptional circumstance'.

And so when the family returned, she was accused of failing to send a child to school and ended up in court.

She pleaded guilty to a truancy charge when she appeared at Blackburn Magistrates' Court, Lancashire, and was given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

She had wanted to plead not guilty but was told the only defences available to her were that the head teacher 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 Sally pleaded guilty, but explained to magistrates why she had taken her child out of school.

Sally, 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.

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 head teacher that it was not in his power to grant the leave. After the hearing, she said she would now have a criminal record for the next six months until it was spent.

Sally 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 head teacher doesn't think a grandparent dying is an exceptional circumstance then I don't know what is.

"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."

Head Tim Mitchell said: "We don't think it's appropriate to discuss the details of this individual case.

Grandfather Graham Crisp

"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."

More on Parentdish: The truancy rules explained.