School holidays and vaccines – is society more important than your own child?

Much of this week’s media focus has centred on Jon Platt’s Supreme Court case, regarding the fine levied against him for taking his children out of school during term-time. Mr Platt was ultimately unsuccessful with this case, with the court’s judgment being led by Lady Hale, stating “…unauthorised absences have a disruptive effect, not only on the education of the individual child, but also on the work of other pupils, and of their teachers…”. Lady Hale’s sentiments were echoed in the recent case of BC v EF, heard at the High Court by His Honour Judge Rogers. The case concerned two children, aged 2 and 4 and the dispute between their parents as to whether the children should be immunised or not.

The mother’s case was that the eldest child has been partly vaccinated in the past and suffered some adverse reaction as a result. The youngest child had not been vaccinated at all. The mother argued that the children would benefit from “herd immunity” in any case. The children’s father took the view that immunisation carried a small risk, but the potential health benefits for the children and society made that risk acceptable.

In BC v EF, whilst acknowledging that every case is fact specific (section 45 and 48), the court followed the guidance of the paediatrician’s report, suggesting that the wider health benefits of society should be considered and as such, it was in the best interests of the children for them to be immunised.

What can be taken from the BC v EF case, together with Jon Platt’s long legal battle, is that whilst being driven to observe the welfare of any individual child affected by litigation, the court will also give consideration to the wider implications on society. In Jon Platt’s claim, the court focused on how the wider school cohort would be disrupted by a small percentage of children being unnecessarily absent any any one time. In BC, the court considered how the “herd immunity” would not be effective if widespread immunisation did not occur (section 68). Although all cases are fact specific, the spectre of wider society’s views on a given issues should never be forgotten.

If you would like to discuss issues relating to your children, contact one of our expert family solicitors today on 01234 88977 or 0207 177 9777 for a free consultation. Serving London, Bedford and the surrounding villages, our lawyers can help you with all your family law matters.

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