Ben Rich represented Isle of Wight Council in the successful prosecution of Jonathan Platt, the parent who took his child to Disney World on holiday in school term time, and ended up in the Supreme Court. The magistrates had thrown the case out on a submission of no case to answer in October 2015, but the Supreme Court ordered the Council to resume the prosecution and Mr Platt was convicted on Friday. The case attracted huge media interest because the High Court had agreed with the Magistrates that the child’s attendance record was the basis on which to judge whether she had attended “regularly’ as the Education Act 1996 required. The Supreme Court disagreed. It ruled that “regularly” meant in accordance with the school rules. That means if the rules say holidays cannot be taken in term time, and the parent takes the holiday anyway, they would be committing the offence. Whether the child otherwise has a good attendance record is irrelevant.
On Friday, during the resumed trial, counsel for Mr Platt argued that the prosecution was an abuse of process as the law itself had been unclear, and the Council had not plainly told Mr Platt that he would receive a Fixed Penalty notice if he took the holiday. That argument was rejected by the bench. He then argued in the trial itself that Mr Platt came under one of the statutory exceptions which will absolve a parent of guilt for what is otherwise a strict liability offence. That submission too was rejected and Mr Platt was found guilty. He was sentenced to a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £2,000 in costs.
The case attracted a lot of media interest, to read about it in more detail please follow the links below: