40c car case mother spared jail
Monday 01 August 2011
A mother who left her three young children in a car in dangerously hot conditions was today spared jail.
The youngsters, aged between two and eight, were left for 45 minutes in temperatures of 40C (104F) inside the vehicle.
Kelly Marie Langham, 26, of Carlisle, told magistrates she thought she would only be away for a few minutes as she popped to a city centre pawnbrokers.
She left the car windows slightly wound down but said she did not appreciate that the heat could rise to the extent it did.
A member of the public phoned police when he heard the repeated sounding of a car horn in Chapel Street, Carlisle, on the morning of July 4 and went to investigate.
Two young children were in the small saloon car along with a distressed baby who was strapped in a seat.
The youngsters did not require hospital treatment but were said to have been left traumatised after being removed from the vehicle.
Langham was ordered to complete a one year community order under the supervision of Cumbria Action Social Support, focused on helping her develop better parenting skills, with a six month drug treatment order.
Chairman of the bench at Carlisle magistrates court Sally Metcalfe Gibson ordered that the single mother pay £50 costs at a rate of £5 from her benefits.
Ms Metcalfe Gibson said: "This was a serious offence but you are a person of good character with no previous convictions.
"You have had significant problems coping with the absence of your partner, three young children to care for, the lack of secure housing and your drug use."
Langham, who spoke only to answer her name and address during the short hearing, appeared tired and had dark circles under her eyes.
When she was arrested, she told police she had earlier taken amphetamine.
Police later found a small amount of the banned substance at her home, on her kitchen window sill.
The defendant said she had become dependent on the drug on a daily basis because of depression.
Her solicitor, Claire Kirkpatrick, told the court her client did not intend to leave her children in the car for so long in "dangerously high heat" and her thinking was "not how it should have been".
She said: "This has been a wake-up call for her.
"She has significant problems for someone who is a single parent of 26-years-old with three young children."
Last month, Langham pleaded guilty to three counts of wilful child neglect or ill-treatment and also possession of amphetamine.
Magistrates warned they could not rule out a jail sentence.
The court was told that social services were now involved with the family but the children appeared to be healthy and happy.
Speaking outside the court, Detective Inspector Kim Fulton said: "This case sends out a stark reminder that the interior of a car will get tremendously hot at this time of year.
"Kelly Langham made a serious error of judgment which today resulted in her receiving a community-based sentence.
"Even with the windows slightly wound down, the temperature got dangerously hot.
"This and the fact that she left her children unattended for 40 minutes left them at risk of serious harm.
"Thankfully, the actions of a member of public prevented them from coming to more serious harm."
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