A single mum who left her young son alone for 12 hours at a time while she worked night shifts so she could afford to provide for him has lost custody of her child.
A court heard how the seven-year-old boy – who suffers from a serious medical condition – asked police if he was ‘in trouble’ when they visited his Blackpool home after neighbours raised the alarm.
He was placed in the care of his dad, who owed more than £3,000 in unpaid child support and saw his son only sporadically over the last four years.
The mum, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted child cruelty during a hearing before Preston’s Sessions House court.
During the hearing details emerged of how the boy’s mum left the him at their home overnight, with a seven foot high window his only means of getting in and out of the property.
Concerned neighbours alerted police when they spotted the boy playing outside on his bike on July 15 last year.
Prosecuting, David Clarke said: “The neighbours had seen him late the evening before at 10pm hiding on his own behind a parked car on the street.
“He had also been seen to enter his address through a front window rather than through the front door.
“So it was that on July 15 at 8.30pm one neighbour saw the window open and saw him playing on the street on his bike. He said to her his mother was at work.
“He said there was a babysitter but the babysitter was upstairs.
“The neighbour was concerned as to whether this was true. The boy then said would his mother go to jail if he told her something.”
The boy told the woman he had to go in and out through the window because his mother was at work, and said he had not eaten anything since breakfast.
The court heard the boy was not “distressed or dishevelled” when police arrived.
He explained his mum had gone out to work at 5pm and would not be back until the next morning. His only means of contacting her was his iPad, using an emoticon of a dolphin. He said he had used this, but no reply was received. It appeared she would send messages to him on her break.
It was not possible for their landline to be used as their rabbit had chewed the wire, the court heard. Mr Clarke said: “He was asked what he’d do in an emergency and he said he did not know.”
He said the boy had packets of Haribo sweets in his bedroom to eat, and although there was food in the fridge, he would not have been capable of making a warm meal with the items. The boy asked repeatedly if he was ‘in trouble’.
A Police Protection Order was taken out and a social worker was called out. A search of the house found it was clean and tidy but it was then details of the boy’s health problems, which meant he needed medication twice a day, were discovered.
An investigation revealed the mum’s shift pattern showed 105 occasions that she worked night shifts.
In an interview, the boy said he did not want to see his mother again as she may ‘leave him alone again’.
The mum told officers in the past family members had looked after her little boy but that had stopped due to their high cash demands.
A friend had also helped out but when that stopped, leaving him on his own was the ‘last resort’, the court heard.
She made no arrangements for anyone to check up on him and said she believed he did know what to do in an emergency – though she said his condition potentially meant he could die at any time.
She said she could not work in the daytime as it did not fit in with school hours.
The child’s father, who did not see him for many years but now has custody, made a statement saying he had changed from the child he once knew.
He began bedwetting and was always worried his mum would come to get him and take him away, he said.
Defending, Rachel Wood said the father had only seen the boy sporadically since he was three, until this incident, had not supported the woman financially and owed more than £3,000 in maintenance.
She added: “The defendant has seemingly given up the fight for her son and given up her life. The irony of this case is the defendant neglected her child in order to support him financially. She couldn’t afford for him to go to breakfast club or after school care.”
She added the struggling mum had used the money to pay for the boy’s extra curricular activities so he did not miss out. Judge Simon Newell adjourned her sentencing until April 16 for a report from social services and the probation service.