Fines reduced for couple who took children out of school during term time to visit a sick relative in Bangladesh
- Credit: AP
An Ipswich couple who took their two children on holiday during term time have had a fine imposed on them by a court reduced at an appeal hearing.
The couple, who were visiting a sick relative in Bangladesh, had been given five days of authorised absence by their children’s headteacher and a further five days of unauthorised absences, which they were told wouldn’t be reported to Suffolk County Council.
However, the couple were warned any further absences would be reported, said Selina Bungsraz, representing Suffolk County Council at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday.
The couple, who cannot be named to protect the identity of their children, flew out of the UK on December 3 last year and didn’t return until December 27, knowing they would be reported to the authorities for the extra days the children were away from school, said Miss Bungsraz.
The couple were subsequently each served with £60 fixed penalty notices for each child – a total bill of £240.
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However, the couple thought they only had to pay £60 for each child and paid £120, said Miss Bungsraz.
Because the couple didn’t pay the full amount they were prosecuted at South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in June for failing to ensure their children attended school regularly and in their absence were fined £250 and ordered to pay £200 costs and a victim surcharge of £40.
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They appealed against the sentence to Recorder Rupert Lowe sitting with two magistrates and had their total fines reduced to £120 with the other financial orders remaining the same.
Recorder Lowe said the case was set against a background of the two children missing a “very worrying” amount of time from school.
He said over a six-month period one of the children had missed an average of one day a week from school while the other child, who had been unwell, missed an average of one-and-a-half days a week.
He accepted the couple had been genuinely confused about the total amount they had to pay for the fixed penalty notices and conceded that letters sent to them by Suffolk County Council hadn’t been “particularly user friendly”.
He said in agreeing to reduce the fines they had taken into consideration the couple’s “straitened” financial situation.
The children’s father told the court he and his wife had taken their children out of school to visit a sick relative and it may have been too late if they had waited for the Christmas holidays.
He said he only earned £5,000 a year and had to borrow the money for the flights to Bangladesh.