Many parents know the excitement and joy of being able to take their children on trips to different destinations around the world. For Paddy Forbes, though, his decision to whisk his son away overseas ended in a fine.
Forbes, father of six-year-old Tommy-Lee, didn’t take kindly to the decision to fine him, either. Instead, he responded to the April 2017 notice with a bucket of coins and a barely detectable smirk on his face.
It all started in February of that same year, when 49-year-old Forbes took his family, including Tommy-Lee’s mother, aunt and uncle, on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Egypt. It was something that the working-class father wouldn’t normally be able to do.
“It was a spur-of-the-moment booking while I could afford it. I came into a bit of money at the time, and we may not have got another chance to go to somewhere like Egypt,” Forbes told the Daily Mirror in May 2017.
Forbes took time off from the transportation firm he runs and let staff at his son’s school know that Tommy-Lee would be away. However, Forbes did not get permission from the head teacher for his boy to miss classes.
And, without the head teacher’s permission, Forbes’ advance notice of his son’s vacation was no defense against the fine that he received. That’s because U.K. law requires parents to obtain the head teacher’s okay to take their children on term-time vacations.
And when a head teacher does give the green light, it’s only with advance notice and for “exceptional circumstances,” according to the GOV.UK website. Furthermore, if a head teacher permits parents to take such a trip, they decide for how long the child can be out of school, too.
But Forbes decided to take his son anyway. For one, he saw a trip to Egypt as a great learning experience for his young son. In May 2017 he told Metro, “Where is he going to learn more about the world? Sitting in a classroom in Swansea or at an Egyptian temple?”
Forbes went on to say, “He was so excited to be in Egypt, and I wouldn’t have wanted to deny him that opportunity.” He said that his son benefited “enormously” from the trip, too, seeing historic sites including the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
But when the family got back to base in Swansea, Forbes had to face the music – to a tune that hit him right in his pocket. Indeed, he received the standard £60 ($80) fine within a week of returning home.
Forbes felt, though, that the fine targeted families like his who can’t afford to take summertime vacations when flights are in demand and prices are higher. “It’s a ridiculous rule designed to punish working-class families,” he told the Daily Mirror.
That’s why he decided to make a statement when it came time to pay his £60 fine at the Swansea Civic Centre. However, to the staff working at the council office, Forbes likely seemed, at least at face value, like any other fine-paying constituent waiting at the counter.
“Hiya, I’ve come to pay my payment fee for not taking my son to school,” Forbes said cheerfully as he approached the woman at the counter. He handed her a paper slip, too – the written notice of the fine he owed.
As the counter woman typed away, though, Forbes turned around and grabbed something on the floor behind him: a bucket. Most people would use this type of plastic pail for housework – mopping floors, say, or catching water from a leaky faucet – but Forbes was to use it for an entirely different purpose.
You see, the bucket held the money that he owed the council – and yet it wasn’t in bills or even one- and two-pound coins. In fact, Forbes had his entire £60 payment broken down into one- and two-pence coins. And when it was time to pay, he then proceeded to dump the contents all over the counter.
Forbes made a quick exit after dropping the money, although he did promise the attendant, “It’s all there. Don’t mean to be a pain.” His move made waves with the council, though; and needless to say, it was not happy with his actions.
A spokesman for Swansea Council told the Daily Mirror, “This is totally unacceptable behavior towards our staff and will not be tolerated. Members of our staff are providing an important service to the public and should not feel intimidated in their place of work in this way.”
However, Forbes had recorded a video of himself dumping the coins on the counter, which he said exonerated him from any potential intimidation claim. He told the Daily Mirror, “I didn’t intimidate anybody at all. I had no intention of intimidating anyone. I’m not that kind of person. There was no harm or malice intended. That’s not what it was about. I have apologized to the woman.”
And yet Forbes is still not out of the woods. The Royal Mint, which regulates how fines can be repaid, says that one- and two-pence coins can only be used to repay fines of less than 20 pence. For Forbes’ fine, he should, then, have paid with one- or two-pound coins or bills of any value.
The Swansea dad didn’t seem too concerned about any potential future repercussions, though. As he told the Daily Mirror, “I was polite to the woman there, and all the money was there. There was no mention of how I had to pay, so in my opinion it’s settled.”