Wednesday 13 December 2017

Dad fined over trip to Disney with daughter during school term loses case

Jon Platt arrives at the Supreme Court in central London with his wife Sally
Jon Platt arrives at the Supreme Court in central London with his wife Sally

Harry Yorke

Parents who take their children out of school for term-time holidays can be prosecuted, the British Supreme Court has ruled as a "stubborn" father lost his landmark case yesterday, whilst appealing to parents not to follow his example.

Delivering their verdict, the judges ruled that Jon Platt (inset), a businessman from the Isle of Wight who took his six-year-old daughter on a seven-day family trip to Florida in April 2015, should have paid a £120 (€140) fine for his daughter's unauthorised absence.

The judges said he had shown a "blatant disregard of school rules" and that his approach had been a "slap in the face" to "obedient" parents who abide by the law.

Their ruling means that parents who take their children out of school on holiday - even if their child has regular attendance - can be prosecuted if they do not receive permission from the headteacher.

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Platt apologised to his wife for his stubbornness, adding that he was "not at all surprised" by the verdict.

However, he said that he felt the decision was "outrageous" and "shocking", as he warned parents with outstanding fines to pay them or face "ending up here in two years' time".

Mr Platt said the decision symbolised the "state" wrestling parents' rights over their children's welfare away from them.

He now faces legal costs of more than £10,000 and could be fined a maximum penalty of £1,000 when the case is re-examined at the Isle of Wight Magistrates' Court later this year.

The UK's Department of Education tightened the rules in 2013 in response to the rising numbers of parents taking their children out of school during term-time in order to avoid the surge in prices charged by travel companies during the peak holiday seasons.

Until the ruling, many parents presumed they could escape prosecution for truancy, providing they could demonstrate that their child had regularly attended school. But that question was unequivocally answered, with the judges ruling that unless a child is sick, absent due to religious observance reasons, or unable to attend because their school transport did not arrive, they must attend school - unless the headteacher has stated otherwise.

It means that even half-a-day's absence, unauthorised, could lead to prosecution - although the judges noted that "trivial" breaches of the law would likely receive a lesser sentence, such as a fixed-penalty notice or an acquittal.

It comes two years after Mr Platt was unsuccessfully prosecuted by the Isle of Wight Council after he failed to pay a £120 fine, leading the authority to pursue the case through the High Court and then the Supreme Court.

His request for permission to take his daughter out of school was refused. After the holiday, he was issued with a fixed penalty notice, but did not pay the £60 by the initial deadline, and was sent a further invoice for £120, which he also did not pay.

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