Case withdrawn against parents fined for term time holiday

Hannah and Richard Smith, from Lowestoft, with their children Joshua (9) and Lauren (6).Picture: ANT

Hannah and Richard Smith, from Lowestoft, with their children Joshua (9) and Lauren (6).Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A family taken to court for going on holiday during term time has had their case withdrawn at the last minute.

Hannah and Richard Smith from Lowestoft were fined by Suffolk County Council for taking their two children Joshua, nine, and six-year-old Lauren on holiday to Egypt in May.

The children, who attend Woods Loke Primary, missed six days of school causing their 100pc record to drop to 97pc.

Mr and Mrs Smith refused to pay the fine after hearing Jon Platt from the Isle of Wight had won a high court case against a fine imposed by his local council.

They were summoned to Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court on November 22 where the case was withdrawn outside the courtroom by the council's solicitor.

However, despite withdrawing the case, Suffolk County Council has this week issued a statement saying it believes a school can issue a fixed penalty notice regardless of the child's overall attendance.

Mrs Smith said: 'It was the principle of it as much as anything.

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'If we had backed down we would have been admitting we were guilty and I didn't feel that we were guilty of anything. Certainly not the charge of failing to ensure regular attendance of the children.'

Mrs Smith said she and her husband both worked and could not get two weeks off during school holidays because colleagues with children also wanted time off. She said it was important to have quality time with her children.

The family was helped by Mr Platt, who sent his solicitor to represent the Smiths.

Mrs Smith said the council's prosecutor had withdrawn the case after seeing her children had high school attendance.

A spokesman for the county council said the decision to issue a fine was with a school's headteacher and it was the council's policy to support schools. He said Mr Platt's case had not set a precedent for any other cases and had not provided an answer as to what regular attendance was.

He said cases were normally presented to the magistrate by council officers but the authority had decided at the last minute to use legal representation after discovering the Smiths had a solicitor, meaning the prosecutor was only given the brief 24 hours before.

He added: 'The decision taken on the November 22, 2016 to withdraw the Smith's case was based upon information gathered from the school in respect to the school's attendance policy.'

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