Mother of three jailed in 'home alone' case

Women abandoned children for 'holiday of a lifetime' to Spain
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The Independent Online
A mother who admitted "taking a chance" by leaving her three children at home alone while she flew to Benidorm for a holiday was yesterday jailed for a year.

Liverpool Crown Court was told that police went to her home in Kirkby, Merseyside, after a tip-off and found her twelve-year-old daughter had just cooked a meal of chips for her brothers, seven and five.

The 30-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted three charges of child abandonment.

The Recorder of Liverpool, Judge William Wickham, told her: "What you did was a serious crime against your children, putting your personal pleasure before their welfare. You took a chance - good mothers don't take such chances.

"I realise that sending you to prison will deprive your children of the care that you are giving them at the moment. But if you are not punished for leaving your children there will be a widespread sense of outrage that justice has not been done and a real risk that someone else will take the law into his or her own hands."

Elizabeth Cliff, for the prosecution, said that when police went to the woman's home on 26 August the 12-year-old girl told them her mother had gone to Spain and said their father lived in the Kirkby area. She said she had just cooked chips for tea. A washing machine and a tumbler dryer were on.

"The house was generally untidy. There was a very small quantity of food in the fridge and freezer section and a small quantity of tins in the cupboard," Ms Cliff said.

One neighbour said the mother had left at 4am and she had taken the two boys in to clean them up after they had soiled themselves. A social worker was contacted. "He was impressed with the girl's ability to look after her brothers and made the observation it was clearly a role that she was familiar with," Ms Cliff said.

Police got the children's aunt to look after them until the mother's return from Spain a week later. They tracked down the father of the youngest boy, whom all three children called "dad", and he confirmed that she had asked him to mind them.

He had not said he would but had not told her outright he would not. "He said she was a good mother and the children were well fed and this was out of character. She had looked on it as a holiday of a lifetime, had taken the opportunity and had simply gone," said Miss Cliff.

The mother was arrested at Manchester airport when she flew home on 2 September.

She claimed she had given the father pounds 40 to mind the children, saying she had not been abroad or flown before and had been looking forward to the holiday.

When he did not arrive by 10pm the night before she left she had gone to look for him and tried to get a friend to look after the children. "I thought he would turn up," she said.

She said she realised that her daughter would not be able to cope, and admitted that she had "taken a chance".

Ms Cliff said the children had been placed on a social services "at risk" register but remained with their mother.

Pamela Badley, for the defence, described the woman as "unsophisticated" but "a very determined and loving mother". She added: "These are offences of inadequacy rather than wickedness."