Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 18:17 UK

Mother denies school place fraud

Mrinal Patel
Mrinal Patel denies having acted dishonestly

A mother has pleaded not guilty to lying about her address to gain a place for her five-year-old son at a popular infant school.

Mrinal Patel, from London, is thought to be the first parent prosecuted in this way under the Fraud Act.

Harrow magistrates adjourned the case until 8 July, when legal arguments will be heard in front of a district judge.

Harrow Council said it was prosecuting her reluctantly, but the admissions system had to be fair to all parents.

Mrs Patel says she made the application in good faith and denies fraud.

Fairness

She applied to the popular Pinner Park First School, which received 411 applications for its 90 available places in September 2008.

Harrow Council says it allocated places to children living closest to the school, up to a maximum distance of 0.685 miles.

Councils hitherto have simply withdrawn places if families that have been found to have acted outside the admissions rules.

So the outcome of the unprecedented decision to prosecute will be watched with interest.

If she were to be convicted Mrs Patel could face a fine of up to £1,000 or up to five years in prison.



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