DEFIANT Halton parents who took their children on holiday during term time last summer after being refused permission from schools have been prosecuted and given hefty fines.

Most of them now face bills of almost £1,000 and have been given only 28 days to pay up.

They failed to appear at Warrington Magistrates Court on Wednesday, February 5, and the cases were proved in their absence.

Mums and dads from Runcorn and Widnes were fined £400 for each child, plus £120 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

For legal reasons, we are unable to name them or their schools to protect the identity of their children.

Alison Hanson, prosecuting on behalf of Halton Council, told magistrates that the parents had completed forms seeking permission from schools to take their children on holiday during term time.

She said headteachers have the discretion to grant leave but only do so in exceptional circumstances.

None of these requests were granted but the parents went ahead with their plans and took their children on holiday.

The pupils missed between one and two weeks of lessons.

The parents were initially fined £60 for each pupil, when their children returned to school last September. This penalty increased to £120 and when the money was not paid within 28 days, parents were prosecuted for non-school attendance under the 1996 Education Act.

A Halton Council spokesman said: “Where the request for a leave of absence is not granted by the school, the absence is unauthorised. The school then refers the matter to us to issue the penalty notice.

“So far this academic year, 28 prosecutions have been brought where penalty notices have been issued and not paid.

“There has been an increased number of notices as the Government has removed the ability of schools to grant holidays in term time and schools can now only grant a leave of absence in exceptional circumstances.”

In 2012-2013, 302 penalty notices were issued. So far in 2013-2014, 124 have been sent out.