Leaving children alone....

(84 Posts)
Flashbangandgone Mon 14-Mar-16 15:15:30

AIBU for being thoroughly confused about what is 'legally' deemed to be reasonable for leaving a child alone. When a Dad is convicted of neglect for leaving his child alone for '5 minutes' in a car to get some calpol, is advised not to appeal by a barrister, then appeals anyway whereupon the judge quoshed the conviction by responding "5 minutes and this is supposed to be a crime?"

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35803414

I'm personally on the side of the Dad and judge, but whatever my personal thoughts, it is appalling that there is such a lack of clarity on the law that this kind of thing can happen.

Frusso Mon 14-Mar-16 15:24:35

I agree that there is lack of clarity, there is also the issue with interpretation of the incident, not just this one, but in general, it is ultimately down the the attending officer to make the call, which would be entirely down to their personal experience and opinions than true fact.

This case would be interesting because the dad said lo was "barely out of sight" which one could question whether they were in sight or not, or whether he meant he could see the car but not the child. And also if a police person was at the car waiting for him when he got back to the car, it brings to question how long the dad actually was, or whether the police were in the area, and just walking past on patrol anyway, and whether dad could see the car from his position.

mummymeister Mon 14-Mar-16 15:27:39

It has to be this vague and a judgement call on a case by case basis. I don't like it. but the alternative would be to say no child under 16 to be left alone ever. that would be bonkers as well.

some 12 year olds are terribly sensible and could go to the shops on their own. others aren't.

plus if you start putting an age on it - say 13, 14 or whatever this means anyone under this age couldn't for example walk to school on their own, go to the cinema, go shopping with friends.

its all about degree and to be fair, most of the time, I think the courts get it about right. obvious exceptions like the one above but the alternatives don't bear thinking about.

BertrandRussell Mon 14-Mar-16 15:28:59

1) How can you be "barely out of sight"?
2) John Hemming alert!!!!

GlindatheFairy Mon 14-Mar-16 15:39:55

Prosecution for leaving them while you pop into a shop is ridiculous. I've always left mine in the car for short periods if they didn't want to come in or were settled and asleep, and I knew they would likely stay asleep for those few minutes.

I agree there shouldn't be specific legislation with age limits, it depends on the child and what they are happy to do, overall risks and so on. I have left DD1 alone for ten minutes in the house from being seven or eight when she was happy (or in fact insistent!) for me to do so. She has walked to and from school periodically with a friend from Y4, there are no roads to cross and it's a ten minute walk. She has always been very independent and sensible. DD2 is a bit less independent but increasingly wants to do things by herself and at & 7 now I've let her go and call for friends in the street and they play out on their bikes. It is a quiet cul de sac, clearly there are cars but not going at any speed.

Flashbangandgone Mon 14-Mar-16 15:53:31

Prosecution for leaving them while you pop into a shop is ridiculous. I've always left mine in the car for short periods if they didn't want to come in or were settled and asleep, and I knew they would likely stay asleep for those few minutes.

Agreed - if that was a crime 90% of parents would be guilty of child neglect confused. I also agree that the law shouldn't be too specific, but at present, the position seems too vague and subjective...

GlindatheFairy Mon 14-Mar-16 15:58:40

if that was a crime 90% of parents would be guilty of child neglect

Indeed, I'm sure my dad left me in the house or car for half an hour or so when I was six or seven and I was just quite happy to read my book for a bit.

In fact - I definitely wouldn't do this, but when I was aged 3 or 4 I used to have to stand outside the betting shop while my granddad went in!

WeeHelena Mon 14-Mar-16 16:01:34

Don't think there's is much that can change how much of a grey area it is with regards to age range and circumstances in which a child is left alone.

My dd aged 5 is in the garden while I sit in my living room she is well trained not to leave and I can hear her chatting away and if not I call but I cannot see her.
I leave her in the car at the garage or if I'm popping into house for few minutes.
Shit happens whether your in the next room or even same room,next house/street, I don't think it comes under neglect.

curren Mon 14-Mar-16 16:04:38

I saw this on to a while ago. Child was ill and had been to the walk in centre or oohs.

Dad parked in front of the chemist. Left toddler in car where he could see her from the chemist.

Police actually spoke to him regarding his tyres I believe (all fine) he was charged with this two weeks later.

It's not something I would do, but I understand the reasoning and don't judge people who do.

It was an appalling case from beginning to end. Effected their jobs and everything. Totally out of order.

treaclesoda Mon 14-Mar-16 16:10:19

I am 40 years old and growing up in 1980s N Ireland where you couldn't leave a car parked in the street unoccupied (unless you fancied coming back to the bomb squad carrying out a controlled explosion on your car), it was entirely normal to be left sitting in the car as a small child. When I was at primary school the teachers even used to do it, get someone out of class to sit in their car whilst they banked the school money/collected something from the printers. It was a rite of passage grin

FreshHorizons Mon 14-Mar-16 16:10:23

I sighed when I saw this news- parents should be able to risk assess for themselves rather than have legislation. It depends on the child, the circumstances and where, and for how long you have gone.
If you live in a safe area and have a sensible 8 yr old and good neighbours you can have a 5 minute walk to the post box and back without taking them.
If you have similar, and a mobile phone, you can go to the nearby supermarket, or walk the dog etc without your 12 yr old.
The important thing is to build up gradually and to have rules and to talk about 'what if...........'
It isn't in the child's interests to treat them like a toddler until they are 16yrs.

Frusso Mon 14-Mar-16 16:37:28

The odd thing about leaving dcs somewhere, is that it seems generally encouraged to allow them to do things.
So you can let a 10yo walk to the corner shop to buy milk and a sweet, but you can't then leave them at home and walk yourself to the shop to buy milk. Or you can park outside a shop and send a 7-8yo in, but you can't leave them in the car whilst you go in.

Mari50 Mon 14-Mar-16 17:34:16

This might seem a bit of a dramatic example of how things can go wrong but I remember seeing a documentary once where a gran had left her grandchildren in the car while she popped into chemists. She was hit by a car crossing the road and taken to hospital, meanwhile the children were left alone in the car during a heatwave. By the time the children were found one of them had died from the heat in the car, the other was very unwell.
Extreme example I know but one to bear in mind esp with younger children.

wigglesrock Mon 14-Mar-16 17:44:00

treaclesoda I spent the vast majority of my childhood "carsitting" grin. I'm a smidgen older than you.

treaclesoda Mon 14-Mar-16 17:46:59

wiggles so glad to meet a fellow car sitter.

'I've just got to go to the shop, will you come and sit in the car?' grin

NeedsAsockamnesty Mon 14-Mar-16 17:48:44

It is not possible to provide much more clarity or be much clearer than we are now.

If we say said no child under 12 (which last time I checked was the nspcc' guideline) then you end up with 12yo's who are not capable of being unsupervised in that position because that's what the law says and you end up with parents in court for using the karzi when their kid is 3. You also end up having a no test period time so one day kids can't be the next they can so no training time or chances to test the skills.

wigglesrock Mon 14-Mar-16 17:51:29

Outside the post office on child benefit day was just a lovely way to spend 40 minutes. Even now my mum is convinced that if she leaves one of us in the car she can park wherever she wants shock. MN would have a field day!

x2boys Mon 14-Mar-16 17:56:57

alot depends on the child too ds1 plays out and i might not see him for an hour he is 9 ds2 however has autism and learning disabillities i cant even leave him upstairs on his own as he gets up too all sorts hes nearly 6

shouldwestayorshouldwego Mon 14-Mar-16 18:22:11

Frusso you have unwittingly transformed my life (well shopping habits). I had never thought of sending the older ones in and me sitting in the car.

We have started leaving them from age 10, which seems about right. By age 11 they need to be able to go to school by themselves. It's not always practical to drop snowflake 1 at secondary and snowflake 2 simultaneously at primary school. I think that definitely over 10 a child should be able to be left for an hour or two unsupervised without fear of prosecution. I suppose that the difficulty comes if a child has SEN and can't be left alone at that age, but most parents would naturally self-regulate that if they felt their child wasn't ready.

From primary age I might leave them in a car for a few mins if they were nearby.

TheRegularShow Mon 14-Mar-16 18:24:28

At 12 years old you must be allowed to leave them on their own but I hear judgemental comments saying they wouldn't leave a 12 year old alone but how are people supposed to work full time if they can't be left?
A house was broken into near me at tea time and a 12 year old in alone and the comments about child neglect were awful but the single mum was at work till 630.

At 12 they too old for childminders and you would not be allowed to say to the job centre I can't work after 3 or at weekends as I need to supervise my 12 year old.

Fiona80 Mon 14-Mar-16 19:14:25

I leave mine in the car quite a bit, but only ever for a minute or 2, 2 grab some milk n bread from a tesco express Or pay for petrol. Hubby always tells me off, but it's easy for him to, it's not him that has 2 drag 3 kids out of the car, it's more hassle than its worth. They are 5, 3 and 2 so I know I really shouldn't but they r mostly in view.

Gymboree567 Mon 14-Mar-16 19:48:11

What I don't understand is it seems to be acceptable for 7/8/9 year olds to go to the park or shop or wander the streets alone or in pairs or groups
Yet leave those children alone in a house, now that's a crime!!

Frusso Mon 14-Mar-16 20:14:08

That's my point gym you even see 4-5 yr olds playing out near me, but you can't go into a shop without them.

Flashbangandgone Mon 14-Mar-16 20:26:38

The whole thing is hugely confused... Sometimes life is just like that, but when someone gets convicted (albeit ultimately overturned) with all the associated ramifications for jobs etc, for doing something that doing something theany, if not most, highly responsible parents would be comfortable with, then I don't think we can simply just leave it to people's subjective judgement without any guidelines.

superram Mon 14-Mar-16 20:27:43

There was a phone in on 5 live today. A lady said she thought some 12 years olds wouldn't know how to behave in an emergency. As a secondary schoolteacher I hope that is not the case or I am doing a terrible job! All the students I know travel to school without an adult and many go home to an empty house as their parents are at work.

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