Dad who took daughter on term-time holiday wins High Court battle


A dad who refused to pay a £60 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.

Jon Platt 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.

His original fine was doubled to £120 because of his refusal to pay.

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

Jon Platt outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Dominic Lipinski/PA
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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

Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall dismissed the council's challenge on Friday, 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".

Jon Platt outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Dominic Lipinski/PA
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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.

The case came as a survey revealed that families face paying more than double the price for a package holiday as soon as school holidays begin.

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

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

A survey by travel money provider FairFX of package holidays for a family of four at a four- star hotel in Tenerife, Majorca, the Costa del Sol and the Algarve found that prices increase by up to 115% compared with the same trip taken two weeks before schools close for the summer.

Mark Jackson, appearing for the local authority, had argued that parents "cannot simply take their children out of school to take them on holiday, or for any other unauthorised reason".

The policy of M's school made it clear that holidays in term time "would not be authorised", he said.

Rejecting the submission, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones said: "I do not consider it is open to an authority to criminalise every unauthorised holiday by the simple device of alleging that there has been no regular attendance in a period limited to the absence on holiday."

The school's attendance register showed that M had an attendance rate of 92.35%.

The judge said: "I consider the magistrates correctly had regard to the wider picture.

"In all the circumstances of this case I am unable to say their conclusion was not one reasonably open to them."