Family’s upset at holidays prosecution

Exeter Magistrates Court

Exeter Magistrates Court - Credit: Archant

A Devon couple, who took their child out of school for a holiday, have expressed their disappointment at being convicted by a court of her failing to attend the school regularly.

The couple denied the charge, but they were convicted after a trial at Exeter Magistrates’ Court.

The JPs heard the school’s headteacher refused their request to take the child on holiday to celebrate relatives’ birthdays.

It was deemed it was not ‘an exceptional circumstance’.

But they went anyway, the absence was unauthorised and the parents did not pay a £60 penalty notice.

An increased fine of £120 was not paid and the couple ended up being prosecuted by Devon County Council.

The court gave both parents a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered them to each pay £140 costs.

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The couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the Herald after the trial: “We are disappointed with the outcome, but not really surprised.

“The fact that the magistrates decided not to fine us indicates to us that they did sympathise with us to an extent.

“We understand that they believed they had no choice within the law.

“We are responsible parents who hold our children’s education very dear.

“Our daughter is not a truant, has never had any unauthorised absence from school before or after the trip, and has an exemplary attendance record, as well as an excellent school report.

“We, her parents, are not criminals, but now have a criminal record.”

They said that the ‘special’ trip abroad actually ‘enhanced their [children’s] education, cultural and family identity - something that is very important at their age’.

“This was an exceptional family occasion, bringing the family together, that we did not want our children to miss,” said the couple.

“This government love to talk about the importance of family, but that is just lip service.

“Our rights to a family life and to make decisions for our daughter were not properly considered when the local authority took the decision to prosecute us.

“Our daughter’s education was not at risk in any way.

“Rather than protecting her education, the objective of the prosecution was one of managing attendance figures by means of a private company running an education welfare system to meet performance targets.

“What a sad world we now live in where the authorities’ need for statistics have replaced common sense.”

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