Grandmother is fined over truancy

Rita Astbury
Rita Astbury

A woman who a court heard was too big to face justice has been dealt with in her absence.

Rita Astbury, 57, failed to attend court for the ninth listing of her case.

At the eighth hearing magistrates in Blackpool were told how court officers had gone to her home to bring her in front of them but her size meant it was impossible to arrest her.

Yesterday Astbury, of Milbourne Street, Blackpool, was sentenced after her lawyer Robert Castle said his client was not making the short journey to court.

She had previously been found guilty to failing to ensure the attendance of two girls –aged 15 and 14 – at school. The elder girl had a 51 per cent attendance record and the younger one a 50 per cent absence rate.

Astbury is the two girls’ grandmother. She has had custody of them since 2009 when their mother abducted them and took them to Tunisia with her new partner.

The mother was later jailed for the abduction.

Magistrates heard education welfare officers made five visits to Astbury’s home.

They sent her letters and text messages and a meeting of concern was held about the girls.

The girls were given bus passes and school uniform by the council.

At a previous court hearing warrant officer David Riches said: “I have been to (Astbury’s) house and frankly she is now too big to be arrested.”

Robert Castle, defending, said his client had “been left to pick up the pieces” after the abduction case.

He said her weight problem had got worse because she suffered from osteo arthritis.

He added: “Her mobility has been compromised.”

Astbury was fined £110 and ordered to pay £135 costs which she must pay at £5 a week.

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