Estranged father who is banned from seeing his children is prosecuted for truancy after their MOTHER took them on holiday in term time

  • Shane Allen, 44, convicted of failing to ensure his children went to school
  • Ex partner took their three children on holiday to Scotland during term time
  • He had no idea about holiday and was prevented from seeing children
  • Attempt to appeal conviction dismissed by judge at Reading Crown Court

An estranged father who was banned from seeing his children has been prosecuted after their mother took them on holiday in term time.

Shane Allen branded the justice system a 'joke' after he was convicted of failing to make sure his children went to school, despite being prevented from seeing the youngsters.

The 44-year-old found himself in court after his ex-partner took their three children on holiday to Scotland when they should have been in lessons.

Father Shane Allen, who was banned from seeing his children, has been prosecuted after their mother took them on holiday in term time
His former partner Charlene Megraw

Father, Shane Allen, pictured left, was prosecuted, despite being banned from seeing his children,  after his ex-partner Charlene Megraw, pictured right, took their children on holiday in term time

At the time Allen had no access to his children and was not aware that Charlene Megraw had taken them out of school. 

The father-of-three became a victim of the crackdown on breaks during the academic year, introduced as part of former Education Secretary Michael Gove's controversial school reforms. 

The details of his case were revealed as he attempted to appeal his conviction at Reading Crown Court.

Allen had even been temporarily barred from seeing the youngsters by social services and had been completely unaware that their mother was planning the impromptu holiday, the appeal court heard. 

The rules to prosecute parents were introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove 

The rules to prosecute parents were introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove 

The judge was told the children's mother, Charlene Megraw, had taken the three youngsters on a holiday to Scotland to visit her family without informing their primary school.

When the school contacted her, she replied with a text message stating that they would be off for the week because they were ill.

However that lie was quickly exposed when the children - two boys aged seven and eight and a girl aged 10 - returned to class and told their teachers and fellow pupils about their holiday.

The school then issued fixed penalties to the pair and both Allen and 24-year-old Miss Megraw, from Newbury, Berks., were taken to court and found guilty of failing to ensure their children attended school.

Both were handed 12 month conditional discharges and were ordered to pay costs of £150 each by magistrates.

Yesterday Allen attempted to appeal his conviction at Reading Crown Court in front of Judge Ian Grainger. 

Taking to the witnesses stand he said: 'Social services told me I had to stay away from them. I didn't know anything about it until I got summonsed to court and then Charlene explained everything to me.

'I wondered why I had to go to court. Like I've said all along I don't understand, I don't even know why I'm here.'

Prosecuting, Laura Phillips told the court that the children's school, Fir Tree Primary in Newbury, had taken action after they failed to turn up for class for a week in October 2013.

STRICT LIABILITY OFFENCES

A parent allowing a child to miss school due to a holiday is known as a strict liability offence.

The distinguishing feature of this type of crime is that the prosecution is not required to prove the defendant intended the consequences of their actions or even foresaw them. 

Evidence which goes beyond the specified elements of the crime, such as intention and knowledge is not relevant and inadmissible. 

For example, in the case of a speeding driver, the prosecution has to prove the defendant was 'driving', but not that they intended to drive faster than permitted, or even that they knew they were doing so.

Other strict liability offences include driving without insurance, health and safety and pollution control.

She said that no evidence had been produced to back up the claims that the children had been ill and that, although she accepted that Allen had been estranged from the children, he still had a legal obligation to ensure their schooling.

Defending Allen, Edward Culver argued that the estranged father had had as much control over his children's movements as he would have had if they had been kidnapped.

He told the the court that 'one parent taking the children away from school without the knowledge of the other parent' was an 'unavoidable cause' for their absence on the part of the unknowing parent.

However, a judge and two accompanying magistrates dismissed his appeal, despite stating that they had 'sympathy' with him over the circumstances that had led to his conviction.

Judge Grainger said: 'It has not been an issue in this case that these three children failed to attend their school shortly before the half term holiday.

'We are deeply unpersuaded that the children or any of them were sick in the relevant period, the view we take is that they were in Scotland.

PARENTS RISK A CRIMINAL RECORD FOR TAKING CHILDREN ON TERM-TIME HOLIDAYS

Parents who take their children on term-time breaks risk being hauled before the courts and a criminal record.

Under the rules introduced in 2013, head teachers are no longer allowed to grant 10 days of holiday during term-time. 

They can now only allow leave in 'exceptional circumstances,' such as a bereavement.

Parents who take their children out of school without permission initially face a £60 fine per child.

The fine rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

Those who fail to pay can face prosecution, with a maximum fine if convicted of £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.

They will be prosecuted under Section 444 of the 1996 Education Act. 

Some 63,837 fines were issued to parents in the academic year to July 2014.

Many of the fines by local authorities were for truancy or repeated poor attendance, but the majority were for letting children skip lessons because of holiday.

Despite, the prospect of criminal convictions, as many as two-fifths of parents would flout the rules so they can get a cheaper summer holiday, a poll found last year. 

The term-time holiday ban has seen stiff opposition from parents and seen hundreds of thousands sign petitions calling for it to be scrapped. 

The National Union of Teachers has even argued that the rules are pricing poorer families out of holidays.

But the Department of Education has branded it a 'myth' that pulling a child out of school for a break is 'harmless.' 

'We have some sympathy with Mr Allen, whose evidence that he had no contact with these children at the time we make plain that we accept.

'However, this is an offence of strict liability and we cannot accept that as far as Mr Allen is concerned Miss Megraw taking their children to Scotland was an unavoidable cause.'

After hearing that the pair were both on benefits, the judge upheld the original magistrates' court decision and ordered mother-of-five Miss Megraw to pay an extra £150 costs for her abandoned appeal.

Megraw had also been planning to contest her guilty verdict, although she withdrew it before the hearing began. 

Judge Ian Grainger, sitting at Reading Crown Court, expressed his 'sympathy' for Allen, but dismissed his appeal

Judge Ian Grainger, sitting at Reading Crown Court, expressed his 'sympathy' for Allen, but dismissed his appeal

Speaking after the decision, Mr Allen said: 'It's stupid, the whole thing is just a complete joke.

'They need to change the system because it doesn't work. If I still don't have anything to do with her [Charlene] 10 years down the line and my kids do this again I can still get done for it and end up facing a fine.

'It's absolutely mad.' 

 

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