Mother loses High Court challenge

A mother convicted of failing to ensure her son attended school
lost a High Court test case last week to challenge truancy

Lawyers representing Alison Barnfather argued that the truancy
provisions in the Education Act 1996 were “incompatible” with
article six of the European Convention on Human Rights, which
protects the right to a fair trial.

Tim Owen QC argued the law meant “utterly blameless” parents faced
being “stigmatised” and branded criminals, even if they had done
all they could to ensure their child attended school.

But two judges upheld the conviction and rejected the appeal “on
the grounds that article six does not entitle the courts to
question the justification for strict liability offences”. However,
Mr Justice Elias said he would have ruled the law
“disproportionate” had he been able to, warning of a “real stigma”
attached to the offence.

Barnfather was convicted and fined in February 2002 by Islington
Magistrates Court in north London.

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