Father who won High Court school holidays case eyes group litigation

The man who defeated Isle of Wight Council in a high-profile court battle over the enforcement of a fine imposed for taking his daughter to Florida during term time has unveiled plans to take forward group litigation.

On a Facebook page, Jon Platt said on 3 June that he had been working on the possibility of reclaiming 'school fines' (truancy penalty notices or TPNs) that have been paid in respect of term time holidays.

He said every local authority in the UK would be asked to refund all TPNs “that were unlawfully issued to avoid litigation by thousands of parents”.

Platt added: “If they refuse, then we will invite all parents in England and Wales to enter their details on our new website (that is currently under construction) with a view to taking forward a group litigation.”

He stressed that parents would not be asked to pay money to sign up for the service. A new company, School Fines Refunds Ltd, has been formed for the purpose.

Platt said he was aware that most local authorities had suspended the issuing of TPNs and most had withdrawn pending prosecutions “but some still seem to think that they can 'win' these cases”.

He added that the Administrative Court’s judgment in his case was now available for local authorities to read so he expected “to see 99% of cases pending in Magistrates Courts withdrawn in the coming days”.

Platt said: “If yours is not withdrawn, I strongly advise contacting the media because they are really interested in follow up stories (I have spent all day on the phone to the BBC, Guardian and others today who want to hear other people's stories) and media interest does seem to 'focus the minds' of those in legal departments in my experience.”

In a subsequent message (5 June) Platt noted some councils had withdrawn pending prosecutions but none had offered to refund fines previously imposed on parents.

“That is just not fair, so if they won't, then thousands of parents need to stand together in a group litigation and make them do the right thing,” he argued.

In May Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall heard Platt’s case by way of case stated in the Administrative Court and found in his favour.

The Leader of Isle of Wight Council subsequently warned of “massive uncertainty”, adding that the ruling had “cast a shadow of doubt over the policies of schools and local authorities across the country”.

The Department for Education said it would look to change the legislation and also strengthen statutory guidance to schools and local authorities.

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