Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mother Cleared of Lying to Get Her Son into Popular School

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mother Cleared of Lying to Get Her Son into Popular School

Article excerpt

Byline: Tim Ross and Peter Dominiczak

THE first parent to be prosecuted for fraud over allegedly lying to get her son into an "outstanding" school has had her charges dropped.

Mrinal Patel faced up to a year in jail or a [pounds sterling]5,000 fine after Harrow council accused her of lying about where she lived to get her five-year-old into one of London's most sought-after primaries.

But the council dropped the case after receiving legal advice that its use of the Fraud Act 2006 could be open to challenge, a decision which has implications for enforcing school admissions rules. Harrow urged ministers to tighten the law to stop parents cheating.

Mrs Patel, 41, attacked the council for putting her through an unnecessary ordeal. She told the Standard: "I was just gobsmacked when the summons came through. Hearing that the case was dropped was such a relief. It has been an extremely difficult time for my whole family, especially the children."

She admitted using her mother's address on the application form when trying to get her son Rhys into Pinner Park First School, which Ofsted rated "outstanding" and received 430 applications for 90 places. Like many of London's most popular state primaries, Pinner Park allocates places to children living closest to it. Mrs Patel said she was living permanently at her mother's home, a short walk from Pinner Park, when she applied to the school. It was reported that she moved out of the family home because of marital problems.

After the school accepted Rhys, Mrs Patel decided to return to her husband's [pounds sterling]300,000 home, outside Pin-nePark's catchment area. "I told the council immediately and they told me Rhys would not be accepted into the school because I was now living outside the catchment area," she said.

"They know I told them the truth about where I was living and yet they still decided to put me through all of this." She accused the council of ignoring her attempts to explain. …

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