Children left home alone lit candle

Published: 23 Aug 2012 13:00

A "very loving and caring mother" who left her young children home alone returned to discover they had been taken away by the police.

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Fermanagh Court heard that when officers entered the house they discovered that the children had taken matches and lit a candle in a bedroom as a Mother's Day surprise.

Deputy District Judge Paul Conway told the 28-year-old mother: "Whilst there was no harm to your children there was an obvious risk they could have burnt themselves very seriously. The fact they were able to get hold of matches and the candle, without your supervision they could have been seriously injured or killed."

He conditionally discharged her for 12 months. If she does not commit another offence within that period she will hear no more about the matter.

The mother was originally charged with wilfully abandoned the children in a manner likely to cause them unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

However, when she appeared in court on Monday a lawyer for the Public Prosecution Service applied to have the charge amended to one of allowing a child to be in a room containing a heating appliance without taking precautions against the risk of them being burned or scalded.

The woman pleaded guilty to the amended charge. She cannot be named for legal reasons.

The prosecutor told the court that on Mothering Sunday, March 18, at approximately 9.30am, police were making door-to-door inquiries about an entirely unrelated matter when they called at the woman's home. The door was answered by her seven-year-old daughter, who told them the only other person in the house was her eight-year-old brother. The police were concerned and entered the house to find the boy holding a cup of scalding hot coffee, which he said he had made for his mother. There was a number of spent matches on the kitchen table and in an upstairs bedroom the children had placed a rose and a lit candle. The boy told the police it was for Mothers' Day. Police took the children and left a note for their mother. Around 90 minutes later she called at the Police Station and made no comment to any of the questions she was asked.

The children were placed in the care of a relative for just over two weeks.

The prosecutor said Social Services had confirmed the children are now back in the care of their mother and they are monitoring the situation and have no concerns.

Defence barrister, Miss Heather Philips, told the court the children were left for a very short time and prepared a Mothers' Day surprise. Since the incident she had been exceptionally emotional. Social Services had carried out announced and unannounced visits and it was evident the mother has a loving relationship with her children and provides for their physical and emotional needs.

The Deputy District Judge told the mother a report by Social Services described her as a "very loving and caring mother" and having the children taken from her was probably greater punishment than anything the court could impose.

"You do look after your children and this appears to be a momentary lapse," he concluded.

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