Following JR pre-action protocol letter West Sussex County Council withdraws prosecution of single-mother for autistic child’s non-attendance at school

Our client’s son, a 14-year-old boy with a diagnosis of autism and special education needs (SEN), was unable to attend his mainstream school due to the high level of anxiety caused by his disability needs.

Despite being aware of his diagnosis and that this was the reason for his non-attendance at school, West Sussex County Council repeatedly failed to carry out an Education and Health Care Assessment to ascertain and meet those needs.

Instead the Council instigated a prosecution against our client under section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996 for her son’s non-attendance.

Following judicial review pre-action correspondence sent by this firm, the Council informed our client that they would be withdrawing the prosecution which has culminated in her acquittal.

Whilst this is a very positive outcome for our clients, we are concerned that this may not be an isolated case. We have been told about a number of similar cases where it would appear that families of SEN school refusers are being prosecuted without first assessing the child’s educational needs or whether a prosecution would be in the public interest. Families facing prosecutions in similar circumstances may wish to seek legal advice on challenging the decision to commence prosecutions.

Solicitor, Rachel Etheridge says:

“This is a great relief to our client. The prosecution – which carries with it the threat of a fine and criminal record – caused tremendous distress to our client and her family which could have been avoided by the Council had they given the help and support to which our client and her child are entitled. Instead, for almost a year our client had to endure the anxiety of defending a prosecution which we maintain was never in the public interest and should never have been started. This result is a tribute to our client’s determination to see justice done for her and her child”.

Our client is represented by of

This case was referred to us by Tildens Solicitors