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Truancy caused by feud, court told

PUBLISHED: 15:26 24 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:56 03 July 2010

Laura Bagshaw

TWO children missed large parts of their education as a “direct result” of a family feud about the killing of someone in Great Yarmouth, a court heard.

TWO children missed large parts of their education as a “direct result” of a family feud about the killing of someone in Great Yarmouth, a court heard.

Ebony and Kyran Baxter attended just 33 days of 159 from last September to January between them.

And on Thursday their parents Gary Johnson, 47, and Natalie Baxter, 36, were each given a 12-week suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work for failing to send their children to school.

In February they were found guilty in their absence of failing to send their children to school, and appeared for sentencing last week.

Yarmouth magistrates were told that Ebony, nine, and Kyran, eight, were afraid to go to school because the family was being targeted by relatives of John Cumby, who was stabbed to death in Yarmouth in February 2006.

The bench heard that Johnson was the uncle of Chriss Lightning , who at the age of 16 in November 2006 was sentenced to four years' detention for manslaughter after stabbing Mr Cumby, 30.

Since the killing, Johnson and Baxter, of Chaucer Road, and their nine children had been threatened by the family of Mr Cumby and a close circle of friends over the last two years.

In mitigation, Annette Hall, said the children's poor attendance had been a “direct result” of the incident, adding that criminal damage had been caused to the family's home.

She said: “He and his family have been victimised by a local family, known to be quite notorious.

“I can understand how very frightened both defendants were for their children who did not want to leave the home and as parents they wanted to make sure they were safe and not going to school was one of the factors of that. They know and appreciate how important education for their children is.”

Prosecuting, Roger Fox, the Norfolk County Council's court officer, said that between September 4, 2007 to January 18, 2008 Ebony had been truant on 142 occasions from Caister Middle and Greenacre First and Middle schools, while Kyran had 110 unauthorised absences from Alderman Swindell First and Greenacre First and Middle schools.

Each period relates to half a day and in total the children missed 126 days at school in a four month period.

Mr Fox said that over the last four weeks the situation had improved with both Ebony and Kyran getting 100pc attendance at Greenacre.

He said: “It's a huge relief both children have gone into school and reports coming suggest they are starting to learn again.”

Johnson and Baxter were each given a 12-week prison sentence suspended for one year and because the couple are on benefits no order was made for costs.

After the case Mr Fox said it was “sad” proceedings had to gotten to this stage but added he was “absolutely sure” the threat of prison was the driving force in improving Ebony's and Kyran's attendance.

He said: “This sends out a very clear message to all parents that children must attend school.”

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