Friday 2 December 2016

Irish dad wins UK court challenge over term-time Disney World holiday fine

Published 13/05/2016 | 19:23

Jon Platt on This Morning
Jon Platt on This Morning

A man who refused to pay a fine for taking his six-year-old daughter out of school for a family trip to Florida has won a ruling in his favour at the High Court.

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Jon Platt, who is originally from Northern Ireland, was fined by Isle of Wight Council after he took his family on the holiday, which included a visit to Walt Disney World, without permission from his child's school.

He was originally fined £60. This was then doubled because of his refusal to pay.

The dispute went before Isle of Wight Magistrates' Court in October when Mr Platt won the case.

But the local authority appealed against the decision at the High Court in London.

On Friday, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall dismissed the council's challenge, ruling that the magistrates had not "erred in law" when reaching their decision.

On Friday, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall dismissed the council's challenge, ruling that the magistrates had not "erred in law" when reaching their decision.

After the ruling, Mr Platt said outside court: "I am obviously hugely relieved. I know that there was an awful lot riding on this - not just for me but for hundreds of other parents."

The magistrates decided Mr Platt had "no case to answer" because no evidence had been produced to prove that his daughter - who is now aged seven and can only be referred to as M for legal reasons - had failed to attend school "regularly".

The two High Court judges ruled that the magistrates were entitled to take into account the "wider picture" of the child's attendance record outside of the dates she was absent during the holiday.

Julie Robertson, solicitor at Simpson Millar, who has represented parents over term-time holiday fines, said: "This decision has provided much needed clarity for parents as to whether regular attendance can continue to be decided on an individual basis by the lower Courts. This decision gives parents the freedom and comfort to continue to take their children out of school during term time provided that they secure regular attendance on the whole."

She added:  "Attendance alone does not guarantee that a child will do well academically, nor does missing a few classes prevent them from succeeding."

It comes as a survey revealed families face paying more than double the price for a package holiday as soon as school holidays begin.

'Money well spent'

Mr Platt said the case had cost him £13,000, which he described as "money well spent".

Taking his six-year-old daughter out of school was not about the cost but rather the principle that he should not be criminalised for doing so, he said.

He told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "If the law required 100 per cent attendance, if the law said your children must attend every single day in order to get a great education, the law would say that - but it does not.

"We are not arguing on behalf of people whose kids don't go to school, I'm arguing on behalf of people whose kids go to school every single day and maybe once a year they take them out for five days.

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