The Parents Union takes up Noah Myers' case

Noah Myers was fined for taking his son out of school for a couple of days to support a cousin participating in an international sporting event. He took his other son out of a different school at the same time, that school wouldn't authorise the absence either but didn't fine him. Noah paid the fine but wants to challenge the decision to refuse permission for absence through the "judicial review" process. Noah has asked The Parents Union to take up his case. 

This is potentially a big step in the campaign to reverse the changes to the school attendance regulations. 

There has been an endless stream of cases on term time absence in the courts and in the media over the past year or more but this one is different. Very different. 

In all the other cases, the local authority has been prosecuting the parents - taking them to court under s444(1) of the Education Act for failing to ensure their children's attendance at school. That's pretty much a strict liability offence which means if the children weren't in school, the parents are found guilty even if the court has sympathy with their reasons. At best the court can give unconditional discharge and not impose a fine  - as one magistrate on a Radio 4 You and Yours programme reported doing.

Other parents like Stewart Sutherland and his wife have been fined around £1,000 despite the fact they applied for the holiday before the new rules came into force and he is given no choice over when to take his holiday by his employer. Kerry Capper was the first case we are aware of where the court found not guilty: Kerry had kept her daughter off because she feared a recurrence of her cancer. 

But as I say, this case is different because it is the first time where it is the local authority being taken to court by the parent - or rather by The Parent's Union on behalf of the parent. We are effectively challenging the lawfulness of the decision by the school not to authorise the holiday. Our webpage sets out why we think the way the regulation is implemented may be unlawful and that will form the basis of our challenge. 

This is a first for the campaign to reverse the term time holiday regulations: over the past year or so, there have probably been about 10 attempts to bring such a case but in each case either the school has capitulated and authorised the holiday or has quietly shelved the issue so that fines were not issued and the parents have felt that has been enough to achieve their aims. This is the first case where the school and local authority have stood up to our challenge. 

There are several stages to the process. So far, we have advised Brighton & Hove Council that we are taking over the case and are preparing the paperwork to submit to the court. Assuming that they continue to defend their position, the next stage will be that we make the application to the court and a judge will make a decision based on the paperwork alone as to whether s/he will grant permission for our case to be heard in court. We will also be making an application for protected costs so that if we lose, there will be a cap on how much of the local authorities costs we will have to pay. 

If the judge decides not to grant permission for the hearing, we have the option to appeal but will have to look at the reasons given before deciding whether that is a feasible option. Even if we decide not to appeal, we will be looking for another case to try again with. 

If the judge gives permission for the case to proceed, we will need to raise £800 for the application to go ahead and will need a contingency fund to cover costs in the event they are awarded against us at the hearing stage. We expect the hearing will be less than a day in court but clearly both sides will need to do a lot of preparation in advance and that's what racks the costs up. It is not unheard of for these to reach the £50,000 mark.

If we win at the hearing stage, the full impact of the decision will depend on the judges reasoning but at the very least it should flag to schools and local authorities that they must be mindful of the Human Rights legislation when making decisions so we would anticipate a move away from the sort of blanket decision making we have been seeing to date. It will also increase pressure on government to review the regulations. 

But, one step at a time.... 

 


Showing 9 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • commented 2017-04-25 16:45:34 +0100
    Hi John
    Glad to hear you re back on the MP train to be.
    Towards the end of your second period of MP, there were grumbles to me among your previous supporters who live local to your ex-office. Please be more careful in the manner your answer issues put to you. In your latter days as a MP you had a different personality towards people seeking your assistance. For reasons that I do not understand a few people have spoken to me about the off-handed way in which you spoke to them, like “what do you expect me to do” and other negative remarks.
    As you were aware I came from a legal background and I know only too well how easy it is to make remarks when you are very busy, tired, fed up with having to listen to moans and groans and other remarks. I made mistakes and complaints were made to my employer. I did my best to pause and think formulating my answers and thankfully complaints about me dried up.
    Best wishes, Michael
  • commented 2016-10-29 09:36:19 +0100
    hear hear Donnamarie,

    this erosion of liberty is disingenuous. It will seem normal to our children thereby further descending the slippery slope to shooting citizens at the border crossing. The megalomaniac philosophy being to deter others from making the mistake of having a different opinion and departing the socialist utopia.
  • commented 2016-10-28 22:28:47 +0100
    Authorities think they have legal rights to our children and dictate as to how we should live our lives. If this is the case then how many of them are willing to take responsibilty if our child/ren commit a crime or put food in their mouths, clothes on their backs and shoes on their feet after parents have paid a costly fine for whatever reason/s.
  • commented 2016-10-05 15:39:43 +0100
    Hear hear Chris and Simon
  • followed this page 2016-10-05 15:38:22 +0100
  • commented 2016-03-04 10:25:23 +0000
    This law and other draconian legislation such as forced adoption has effectively tipped parliamentary democracy into the realms of tyranny.

    Because a minority of the electorate are active parents these laws are very much “tyranny of the majority”.
  • commented 2016-03-04 10:16:15 +0000
    hear hear Chris Groves
  • followed this page 2015-11-16 11:19:30 +0000
  • commented 2015-11-16 11:03:53 +0000
    It’s disgusting that schools have the power to dictate when a family can have a holiday or visit special events. I used to work and have a family, and had to take holidays as and when I could, as Nursing was a 24 hour a day/365 days a year job. I had to fit in with other families who also had to take holidays outside ‘term time’. Penalising people in responsible jobs for taking holidays only as can be accommodated by the job, is not the answer.

    Or is this another way to extract money from the working classes for the government to pay debts they have accrued by giving it away to foreign countries in the form of AID?