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Coventry couple given criminal record for taking children on holiday during term time

The parents took their children to Australia during term time Photo: PA Wire

A couple from Coventry who took their children on holiday to Australia during term time have been given criminal records.

The parents, who cannot be identified to protect the children's identities, were given conditional discharges.

They both denied committing an offence under Section 44 of the Education 1996 and appeared separately at Nuneaton Magistrates' Court.

The mother was given a twelve month conditional discharge. The father, who changed his plea to guilty, was given a ten month conditional discharge.

They were also ordered to pay £800 towards prosecution costs.

The magistrates gave the fairest verdict they could under the current laws, which are flawed. I fully support any campaign to call for a judicial review.

I still feel I did the right thing for my children at the right time.

– The mother, speaking after the hearing

The prosecutor on behalf of Coventry City Council, Amy Jackson, told the hearing that the only legal justification for a child's absence during term time is for "sickness or an unavoidable cause."

Magistrates were told the family went to Australia for three weeks last October which included 13 days' unauthorised absence from school.

The head of the children's school refused to give permission to the parents under the new guidelines introduced by the government on 1 September 2013.

The family was issued with a fine of £240 by the council on its return which was not paid.

Giving evidence, the mum said her terminally ill mother-in-law had been living with the family which was causing "a huge effect on her children."

Her barrister, Annabel Goodman, questioned the school's interpretation of the new rules after the head told the hearing there had been no exceptional circumstances.