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'Leaving' kids in car - illegal?

(36 Posts)
Mij Tue 18-May-10 18:28:15

Is it illegal to leave children in the car alone? In any circumstances? Only over a certain time/under a certain age/in particular conditions (e.g. when you can't see the car/reach it within 5 strides/whatever else)?

I've heard it constitutes neglect. Is the person who told me correct?

scurryfunge Tue 18-May-10 18:30:52

It can be neglectful, depending on the circumstances. You have responsibility for children under the age of 16.If you put them is risky, dangerous situations, it could be an offence.

Mij Tue 18-May-10 19:54:08

So, context is key? I know it's hard to assert without knowing all the ins and outs of a specific case. But there isn't, to anyone's knowledge, any specific point of law prohibiting it?

How is riskiness/danger judged by the law? Everyone thinks their 'common sense' is the one everyone shares. The extremes are easy to agree on, but there is so much subjectivity in judging safety/risk.

Harimo Tue 18-May-10 19:56:52

Well, you can be charged for leaving a dog in a car, so absolutely certain you can be charged with leaving a child.

Surely, it's a case by case situation though?

Mij Tue 18-May-10 20:47:54

Harimo, it's the case by case thing that's difficult. Presumably you wouldn't be charged for leaving a dog for five minutes if the car's parked in the shade, with a water bowl and the window cracked open. Who decides if it's OK to do the same with a strapped-in, happily entertained child/children or not? How does an individual parent/carer check their judgement? Are there guidelines?

scurryfunge Tue 18-May-10 21:17:20

Neglect is usually over a long period of time and an isolated incident is not always neglect. If the child comes to harm then that would be neglectful. Are you thinking of a particular incident that would help illustrate what you mean?

grumpypants Tue 18-May-10 21:20:07

WEll, I always left mine when i went to pay for petrol. However, the other day I returned to the car and noticed a maybe 3 yr old sitting in the driving seat, fiddling with the wheel and various bits. I felt it was really dangerous. Made me realise that altho mine are older (and the younger one is always strapped in the baby seat properly) they only need to release the handbrake, move into gear for an accident to happen.

Mij Tue 18-May-10 21:31:54

Scurryfunge; car parked in parking bay immediately outside post office, in the shade. pre-schooler and baby strapped inside. Car locked. Parent pops in to post office, sees queue, hovers by doorway watching kids, waving etc. After 3 mins or so, has to go to counter. Out of sight of car for about 2 mins, but post office door open. Traffic wardens appear, bollock parent, say it's 'illegal to leave children in a car'. Say they have to report all dogs and kids left in cars to their supervisor. Say a man has been 'done' recently for leaving his baby in the car in the same city (no details). When questioned about the law, slightly back track and cite 'health and safety'. Both parties retire amicably but parent taken aback and a little shaken.

scurryfunge Tue 18-May-10 21:43:31

This happened to my sister too. A police officer attended and she was reported to social services, who rang her and said "did you know that was unwise?".She agreed it was unwise and agreed that she was unlikely to do it again.

It's not an offence per se. If the overall picture shows neglect over a period of time by constantly leaving your child in a car or it was a hot day, no windows open, sun blazing in that that may be different. Traffic warden would probably report an incident such as your example but it is not necessarily an offence by itself.

Sounds like they were trying to justify why they would need to report it to their supervisor without knowing why.

Mij Tue 18-May-10 22:39:36

You see, I don't think it was unwise. Statistically those kids were in more danger when the parent was driving. I wouldn't ever plan to leave kids that age where I couldn't see them, but sometimes events conspire. I leave DD2 sleeping in the car (in the shade, with the window open) on our driveway, which isn't gated, and I check on her every 5 minutes or less. Is the fact that she's on private property make it reportable? Is it the fact it's a public highway?

I'm just really trying to understand the criteria here, because I often do quick nips into a shop (although I think I can always see the car) and I don't want to have a run in with SS about it.

Mij Tue 18-May-10 22:41:20

Sorry, private property make it not reportable... Short night last night...

scurryfunge Tue 18-May-10 22:49:44

I think we all do it and no harm comes to the child. I think it makes no difference whether it's private property or not, you can neglect children anywhere.

I think common sense prevails.....if you can see the child or check every few minutes, there are no over- heating issues, etc, then anyone would be hard pressed to say you were neglectful.

In an ideal world we have our contented babies strapped to us permanently and never out of sight but in reality we risk assess each situation.

Ellokitty Tue 18-May-10 23:17:14

I'm another one who thinks actually my child is safer left in the car grin.

I do leave her, if I need to pop into a shop such as a petrol garage. My reasoning being, when she is strapped in her car seat, she can't get out, she is safe - The only risk is someone abducting her, which is incredibly likely. However, if I get her out of the car, then there is danger of her running off and getting knocked over. I consider this to be a much greater risk.

Therefore, I think it is much wiser in some circumstances to leave them in the car!

Ellokitty Tue 18-May-10 23:17:49

Sorry incredibly unlikely

Mij Thu 20-May-10 20:15:31

I just wanted to know the legal position, really. To be sure of my ground if challenged. I think there was a bit of 'I've got a uniform on so I can tell you off' going on, and it sounds like the warden didn't really know what she was talking about, or certainly hadn't considered the subtleties of case-by-case judgement as we've been discussing. Thanks all :-)

fedupwithdeployment Thu 20-May-10 20:25:48

I was challenged by an incredibly officious traffic warden once. I had driven about an hour with a grouchy DS1 (then just 2) to Guildford to pick up brand new buggy which I had paid for. I parked outside the shop (centre of Guildford) mid morning.

I was 40 weeks pregnant (DS2 arrived about 5 days later). I couldn't carry DS1 into shop. Took the view that it would take 5 mins (put money in the metre), waddled into shop, waddled out with buggy. DS1 asleep the whole time. It took about 4 minutes. It was December so temp was fine.

Yes someone could have broken the window and stolen him (really? how likely? centre of Guildford in 4 minutes). Alternatively, I could have dropped him crossing road, brought on labour while miles away from home.

I made a judgment that it was safer in teh circumstnaces to leave DS1 asleep and I stand by that today. I looked into whether I was breaking the law - and as others have said, neglect is a question of degree. I don't believe either that I ws neglectful. Or that I broke the law.

Jaybird37 Fri 21-May-10 09:16:14

I have to admit to having left mine in the car for very short periods when they were babies because I had twins, I lived in an upstairs flat and could not manage both of them plus shopping upstairs.

It felt safer to me to bring one up with half shopping and put him in a playpen, and then go back for the second and the rest of the shopping than carry both and risk a fall on the stairs, or leave them to chuck toys at each other in a playpen whilst I fetched shopping.

It did make me anxious, even though it was a quiet residential street, but I would have stood my ground if challenged.

Bethybooo Sat 14-Jul-12 09:19:05


I never leave them unattended. Not for a pint of milk or to pay for petrol. I did walk my eldest ten step from my car to a front door and in that time my four year old undid his seat belt and took the hand break off and went off down a hill. We were let off lightly with a few bruises, a written-off car and a lesson learned.

BeatriceBean Sat 14-Jul-12 09:32:51

I certainly wouldn't leave them sleeping on drive (but have thought about it!) if they wake Jr straight after you've checked on them they could wake scared, strapped in and on their own and think you've left them. It would be a long wait for a small child even if we as adults know its not long .

GrasshopperNchipmunk Sat 14-Jul-12 15:31:27

Personally, I would never leave my children alone in the car, even for a few minutes, and especially if it would mean them being out of sight. I think it's pretty reckless.

Although, having said that, I live in a city. If I lived in the country (where I grew up), the kind of place where everyone knows each other, I guess the overall risk would be less.

It totally depends on circumstances.

I think the traffic warden was right to address it with you.

GrasshopperNchipmunk Sat 14-Jul-12 15:51:42

I don't think there is a specific law, but it can certainly be neglectful as others have said.

There was a story in my local paper the other week about a woman leaving two little ones in her and being prosecuted and children's taken into care. Mind you, she did leave them to go to the pub hmm

lightrain Sat 14-Jul-12 15:59:33

Ridiculous to say that leaving a sleeping baby or toddler in the car when paying for petrol or on the driveway is neglectful. Strapped into the carseat, window down, I the shade - of course, all sensible measures. Otherwise, there is no more of less danger if you're keeping a close watch. Some people are totally over the top. There is risk in every single thing a human being does, being a responsible parent is about making wise judgements about these, you can't wrap children in cotton wool for eternity.

whatinthewhatnow Sat 14-Jul-12 16:07:12

oh fgs. of course i leave my children in the car while i pay for petrol, and even sometimes (gasp!) while I nip and get bread. I can see them the whole time, an it's certainly safer than negotiating two pissed off children, one of whom is 2 with no road sense, across a busy forecourt or carpark. I would very much enjoy it if a traffic warden (really? a ^traffic warden?^) challenged me.

Condover Sat 14-Jul-12 16:17:13

My parents used to leave me and my sister in the car to pop into a shop. We were probably a bit older as we would be out of sight. We always had strict instructions to stay in the back and not to touch anything. Of course we always got in the front and fiddled with the controls. I used to have nightmares that one of us let the handbrake off, which still recur to this day occasionally. blush

GrasshopperNchipmunk Sat 14-Jul-12 16:27:51

My parents used to leave us in the car too, and one day my brother let the handbrake off and the car rolled downhill into another car blush

There is a huge difference between leaving your children whilst they are still in sight, and when they are not.

There is also so much ambiguity about circumstances for leaving children, so it's no good saying that every parent should do this, or that.....

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