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Council defends holiday prosecution
A local authority has defended its decision to prosecute a couple who took their two children on a term-time holiday to Australia.
Coventry City Council said it had followed Government guidelines in taking action against the parents, who claim the three-week break offered their children respite from the suffering of a terminally-ill relative.
The couple and their children, who cannot be named because of a court order, spent three weeks in Australia last October, including 13 days of unauthorised absence from school.
Both parents were conditionally discharged at Nuneaton Magistrates' Court yesterday after being convicted of breaching Section 44 of the 1996 Education Act.
The mother was convicted after a trial and given a 12-month conditional discharge, while the father pleaded guilty and was given a 10-month conditional discharge.
Magistrates also ordered the couple, who were prosecuted after opting not to pay a £240 enforcement notice, to contribute £800 towards the cost of the proceedings.
Speaking after the hearing, the children's mother told the Coventry Telegraph she supported campaigners calling for a relaxation of laws governing term-time holidays.
"The magistrates gave the fairest verdict they could under the current laws, which are flawed," she told the newspaper.
"I still feel I did the right thing for my children at the right time."
Coventry City Council said the decision of the court had demonstrated that its course of action had been correct.
The local authority said in a statement: "Our schools follow the guidance set down by the Department for Education in trying to maintain good levels of attendance.
"Schools decide whether to authorise leave based on whether they think there are exceptional circumstances.
"Penalty notices are issued by the council at the request of schools for various reasons including where the school has felt there were no exceptional circumstances to justify absence."