A FIVE-year-old boy could find himself at the centre of a court case over a bill for failing to attend a school friend's birthday party.
When Alex Nash failed to attend his classmate's sixth birthday party at the Plymouth Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre, his friend's mother, Julie Lawrence, was not amused.
Ms Lawrence printed an invoice demanding a "child's party no-show fee" of £15.95 and passed it to a teacher, who put it in Alex's school bag.
Alex's parents, Derek and Tanya Nash, from Torpoint in Cornwall, said that after initially thinking the invoice was a joke, they tried to settle the matter amicably.
An ensuing Facebook message exchange, however, ended with Ms Lawrence reacting to the couple's refusal to pay her by saying: "Fine. I will see you at the small-claims court".
Ms Lawrence was unavailable for comment last night and it was unclear whether she knew that to register her demand for £15.95 with the small-claims court, she will have to pay an administration fee of at least £25.
But Alex's father, Derek, 44, vowed: "If I get the letter through my door saying she is taking me to court, I will be defending myself. She has massively overreacted." Mr Nash initially told Ms Lawrence that Alex wanted to go to the party on 20 December.
On the day, however, he and Ms Nash realised that 20 December would be the only time Alex could see his grandparents before they went away for Christmas. Alex opted to see his grandparents. Ms Lawrence has insisted her contact details were on the invitation and the couple should have notified her that Alex wouldn't be attending, but Mr Nash said that by the day of the party they didn't know where the invitation was.
Mr Nash said that after the Christmas holiday ended, Ms Lawrence took the invoice into Torpoint Nursery and Infant School in a brown envelope and handed it to a teacher, who placed it in Alex's schoolbag - where it remained until his parents found it on 15 January.
Mr Nash said: "I thought it was a joke to begin with. I went to see her. "I told her she should have spoken to me first and not put the invoice in my son's school bag, and said I would not be paying her.
"Our communications probably weren't the best, and I would have sympathised with her about the cost of Alex not showing up. But what makes a person have an invoice like that put in a child's schoolbag?" Ms Nash tried to make peace, contacting Ms Lawrence via Facebook to say: "I would prefer to settle this amicably." Ms Lawrence responded: "I don't like fighting with people either, and was not best impressed when Derek turned up on my doorstep, and said, 'you won't get any money' rather rudely. The amicable way round this I believe would be to pay me and let a lesson be learnt."
After being told "unfortunately no", Ms Lawrence said she would see the couple in court, adding that the no-show fee covered "one child's party at the ski slope including snow tubing and tobogganing and lunch."
Staff at the Plymouth dry ski slope said: "If a child doesn't show up, we usually just find a way around it, like offering extra toboggan rides."
Ms Nash, too, seemed bemused that her son might now be at the centre of a court case. "He has never had any problems at school. The worst he gets up to at home is jumping off the sofa."
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