North Yorkshire school fines raised £27,000 last year

North Yorkshire school fines raised £27,000 last year

Published at 6:49am 19th October 2016. (Updated at 3:35pm 19th October 2016)

455 fines were issued to parents in North Yorkshire last year due to children skipping school.

It's estimated, at the minimum £60 a time, over £27,000 was raised for the local authority.

Some fines can rise to as much as £120 if not paid promptly.

The figures have been obtained by the law firm Simpson Millar through a freedom of information request.

Overall, they reveal that more than 114,000 fines were issued to parents across the UK in the 2015/2016 school year, with 21,000 in Yorkshire.

The firm says many education authorities are misinforming parents of their rights when it comes to appealing the notices.

Although, Government advice suggests there is no right to appeal, a number of authorities withdrew fines last year.

North Yorkshire County Council said it had no appeal process in place.

Leeds City Council, which is responsible for education in Wetherby and Otley, withdrew around 8% of the fines it issued.

Bradford Metropolitan District Council, covering Ilkley, withdrew 1 in 10.

Solicitor Julie Robertson, from Simpson Millar, said: "It is hugely worrying that parents are told by some councils that they have no statutory right of appeal when in fact they have a common law right to do just that. It is misleading and very concerning. I would even call it a breach of duty on behalf of certain authorities."

She's calling for parents to be given clear and independent guidance about how they can challenge an Education Penalty Notice when it is issued.

She said: "The court is our safeguard to ensure that rules are being applied fairly, and more parents need to take advantage of that opportunity. To do that they need to understand how they can challenge an Education Penalty Notice.

"In court, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, not the parents. The prosecution has to prove that the parent did not secure regular attendance and, in my experience, they often can't. In fact, these cases are regularly thrown out of court at half time."

A spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council said: "A penalty notice is a legal document issued under the appropriate legislation. If the recipient wants to challenge the notice, they have the right to argue their case in court. The decision of the court would be final."

Following a high-profile legal case on the Isle of Wight last year, North Yorkshire announced it was suspending the issuing of penalty notices for unauthorised absence if a child's school attendance is 90% or above in the preceding six months.