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Mother who home-schooled her son in London wins legal battle

Published 16/07/2015

Sophie Sotello arrives at the Old Bailey
Sophie Sotello arrives at the Old Bailey
Sophie Sotello arrives at the Old Bailey

A mother-of-three who rejected schools in west London's affluent Chelsea borough in favour of home education for her 10-year-old son insisted she had "right on her side" after winning her legal battle.

Sophie Sotello, 46, gave up her job as an officer manager 15 years ago to bring up her children out of the traditional school system.

But the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea prosecuted Ms Sotello for failing to comply with a school attendance order for her youngest son Gabriel's education last year.

Following a summary trial at City of London Magistrates' Court in March she was convicted of the offence.

Today, Ms Sotello successfully appealed against her conviction in Court One of the Old Bailey after Kensington and Chelsea did not contest it.

The borough's lawyer Sue Obeney told the court that the whole legal affair could have been avoided 18 months ago.

She said Ms Sotello had refused to "engage" with officers and there had been some "unfortunate threats and insults" in the past.

After one attempt to arrange a meeting, Ms Sotello had responded that her company would charge £5,000 for her to attend, Ms Obeney said.

An educational psychologist had since visited the family and provided a statement confirming that the child was being provided with "suitable education", she said.

The appeal panel headed by Judge Richard Hone QC quashed the conviction and directed that the school attendance order should cease.

Outside court, Ms Sotello said: "I knew right was on my side. My kids learned to quote Churchill - 'If you're going through hell, keep going'."

She said she took her oldest musically "gifted" son, now 20, out of school after he was "smacked on the wrist every time he touched the piano". She went on to home school her daughter, now 17, as well as her youngest son.

Ms Sotello said she "had nothing against" the schools in Chelsea, but insisted: "It's simply that school is not the right fit for every child."

As a result of the case over an order dating back to June last year, her reputation, health, livelihood and community work had been affected, she said.

Ms Sotello said she had a "co-parenting agreement" with her husband who works as a Sotheby's deputy director as they go through a divorce.

The trained linguist who used to work for financial services software company Misys Plc as well as being a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, said she felt "appalled" at the council.

She claimed some of the letters she had received felt "threatening" and added that officials had "no right" to demand an inspection unless they had concerns.

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