A Berkshire man with no access to his children has been fined after his ex-partner took them on holiday.
Charlene Megraw, the children’s mother, had taken their children to Scotland during term time without informing the school. When they returned and told classmates and teachers about their holiday, the school took action, issued penalty notices and the parents were taken to court.
Mr Allen objected to the fine as he had previously been banned from contacting his children following his separation from Miss Megraw. In his appeal against the decision, he claimed that he had no knowledge of the holiday. At the Reading Crown Court, Judge Ian Grainger expressed “some sympathy with Mr Allen”, but he ultimately upheld the original decision as it was “an offence of strict liability”: a matter for which someone can be held liable even if they are not specifically at fault.
Under regulations implemented by Education Secretary Michael Gove, parents are ‘strictly’ liable for any of their children’s unexcused absences from school. As the children’s father, Mr Allen was therefore legally responsible despite his lack of control over the situation.
Prior to these new rules, a head teacher could grant up to ten days leave for holidays. Now, time off during a school term is only allowed for “exceptional circumstances” such as bereavements.
Mr Allen called the justice system “a complete joke”. He added that it was “absolutely mad” that he could be punished for something he had no control over.