Fresh hope for fined parents after High Court ruling

Jon Platt outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London
Jon Platt outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London
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Two Fylde coast families fighting fines for taking their children out of school during term time have been given fresh hope.

Andrew Lyon-Walker and his partner Rachel Hughes, of Norbreck, were told to pay £200 at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court after taking their teenage son Ben Pietersma to Holland on a famous battlefield trip last year.

Ben Pietersma with Andrew Lyons-Walker who was fined after their annual pilgrage to Holland which visits the site of the Battle of Arnhem where Andrew's grandfather fought during World War II

Ben Pietersma with Andrew Lyons-Walker who was fined after their annual pilgrage to Holland which visits the site of the Battle of Arnhem where Andrew's grandfather fought during World War II

And Michelle Smith, who said she had to pull her 10-year-old daughter Amelia out of Norbreck Primary Academy for seven days because she had different holiday dates than her other children, was landed with a £60 fine.

But they said they are now more confident of fighting the fines after the High Court in London yesterday ruled Isle of Wight dad, Jon Platt, who took his six-year-old daughter out of school for a family holiday, has no case to answer.

Mr Platt, had originally been ordered to pay £60 – which doubled after he refused – for taking his family to Florida, including a trip to Walt Disney World, without permission.

In October, the dispute went before magistrates, with Mr Platt winning the case.

Michelle Smith, of Thornton Gate in Cleveleys, was fined by her daughter's school after taking her out during term-time because its holidays did not coincide with those of another of Michelle's children. Michelle is pictured with her fine notice and daughter Amelia.

Michelle Smith, of Thornton Gate in Cleveleys, was fined by her daughter's school after taking her out during term-time because its holidays did not coincide with those of another of Michelle's children. Michelle is pictured with her fine notice and daughter Amelia.

The local authority then appealed at the High Court in London, but Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall yesterday dismissed the council’s challenge, ruling that the magistrates had not “erred in law” when reaching their decision.

Mr Lyon-Walker, of Wilvere Drive, said: “I think it’s a fantastic result for him and it has massive implications. It gives us a little bit more confidence than we had.”

The taxi driver, whose son goes to Baines High School in Poulton, has hired a legal expert for his and his partner’s appeal, set to be heard at 
Preston Crown Court on July 15th.

He added: “Our barrister thought we had a 65 per cent chance of over-turning this before, so I don’t know what he thinks now.

“I was looking forward to this result.”

Michelle, 34, of Thornton Gate, Cleveleys, said she believes she has a stronger case to put forward than Mr Platt and is now intent on challenging her fine.

“I’m over the moon,” she said. “I’ve been watching this very closely. My solicitors and I have been awaiting the outcome of this case.

“We are now ready to challenge Blackpool Council over the fine.

“Had the high court gone the other way I would definitely have just paid up.

“But now we will definitely fight it. If anything I believe I have a stronger case to put forward. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

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

Baines High School headteacher Roddy McCowan said regardless of the amount of time, those who miss school, miss out on learning.

Norbreck head Karen McCarter added: “Although it may seem harsh, term-time absence for holidays are not allowed. The government expects that schools maintain the highest levels of attendance.”