The Supreme Court will next week hold an expedited hearing in the high-profile unauthorised school absence case involving the Isle of Wight Council.
The central issue in Isle of Wight Council v Platt is whether, on an information alleging a failure by a parent over a specified period to secure that his child attends school regularly contrary to s.444(1) of the Education Act 1996, the child's attendance outside the specified period is relevant to the question whether the offence has been committed.
The background to the case is that Jon Platt requested permission to take his daughter out of school for a holiday. This request was refused by the daughter's head teacher.
Platt then took his daughter out of school on holiday to Florida for seven days. As a result, he was issued with a fixed penalty notice in respect of the absence. He did not pay the penalty of £60 by the initial deadline and so he was sent a further invoice for £120.
Platt did not pay this either and so he was prosecuted on the basis of his alleged failure to secure regular attendance at school of his daughter, contrary to s.444(1) of the Education Act 1996.
He pleaded not guilty before the Isle of Wight Magistrates' Court. The defence submitted that there was no case to answer as Platt’s daughter had in fact attended school regularly. The attendance register showed attendance at 92.3%.
The Magistrates' Court held that the daughter was a regular attender for the purposes of s.444(1), bearing in mind her overall percentage attendance. Therefore, they ruled that there was no case to answer.
On appeal, the High Court (Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall) found that the Magistrates' Court was entitled to take into account attendance outside the offence dates when determining the attendance of Platt’s daughter.
The appellant council, following a request by the Minister for Schools, obtained permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The case will be heard on 31 January by a five-judge panel comprising Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Reed and Lord Hughes.