A HEREFORDSHIRE mum faces the prospect of being jailed after taking her daughter out of school on a backpacking holiday.

Jackie Turner took nine-year-old Hazel out of Ledbury Primary School last November for the once-in-a-lifetime three-week trek through Europe.

The 50-year-old said the £60 fine she thought she would face for the unauthorised absence was a price worth paying for the experience, but was shocked when the absence landed her in court facing a £2,500 fine or a three-month prison sentence.

Her partner, Maxon Sequira, who didn’t go on the trip, also faces court action.

A trial has been set for November.

Ms Turner, who lives in Ledbury, claims the school policy was to inform the headteacher six weeks prior to taking pupils out during term time, but in this instance she couldn’t as the holiday had to be taken almost immediately as she was due to start a new job three weeks later.

She says she initially contacted Herefordshire Council to ask about the possibility of taking Hazel off the school register for the three weeks before placing her back on it upon their return.

She also says she approached the school to ask if there was any work she needed to set for her daughter while the pair were away, but didn’t receive any response.

She said she later learnt the message had been accidentally diverted to the school’s ‘spam’ email hasket, so it wasn’t picked up.

Both Ms Turner and Hazel’s father were then called to a police and criminal evidence interview before being told they would be prosecuted.

The mother and daughter spent three weeks backpacking through a number of European countries including Hungary, Croatia and Romania.

“It was an enriching trip,” said Ms Turner. “At her age, experiences are everything.

“She will remember the trip forever.

“I regret the consequences but not the trip itself.”

Mr Sequira has also found himself in trouble and facing the same charge as his partner, even though he didn’t go on the holiday.

“Max was nothing to do with this. It’s very harsh on him,” added Ms Turner.

“We are the first to have been prosecuted without having been offered a fine first.

“If we get convicted there is the small possibility there will be a custodial sentence, probably suspended, but we are in uncharted territory here. There is no precedent.”

The couple have both appeared before Hereford Magistrates’ Court charged under the Education Act 1996 with failing to ensure their child regularly attended school. Both pleaded not guilty and will appear before magistrates again for trial on November 9.

Herefordshire Council said: “As this is awaiting a court hearing, Herefordshire Council is unable to make any comment in respect of this matter.