Belfast mum who left three children home alone overnight avoids jail
A mother who admitted leaving her three young children alone in their Belfast home overnight and with no food has avoided being sent to jail.
Belfast Magistrates Court heard that when the three children were taken from their home by social workers, the eldest told them she had "been brave" in helping to look after her younger siblings after they were left alone by their mother.
All three – understood to be under the age of eight – are now in foster care. The 25-year-old mother, a Polish national who cannot be named to protect the identity of the youngsters, admitted six charges of child cruelty, on the basis of neglect and abandonment, over a period from April 1 to June 22, 2013. She was handed a six-month prison sentence, which was suspended for three years.
A representative from the Public Prosecution Service told the court that on June 22 last year, social workers visited a property in Belfast where they discovered three children home alone.
They were subsequently removed from the house under the Children's Order 1995.
They were medically examined by a forensic medical officer, and during interviews the eldest child said they had been left alone overnight by their mother, who returned the next morning.
When arrested, the mother admitted leaving her children.
Branding the case against his client as "very sad", defence solicitor Ben Thompson pointed out there were no allegations of physical abuse, adding the children at the time appeared to be in good health.
He also told District Judge George Connor that the children, who are now in care, have "responded very positively" to the change in their living arrangements, adding their mother "recognises they deserve better care than the care she is able to provide for them".
Regarding his client, Mr Thompson said: "She was very severely damaged emotionally by a harrowing childhood, and as a consequence of that she is emotionally detached from her children."
This childhood in Poland, the solicitor said, included emotional neglect as well as physical and sexual abuse, which left her with psychological issues.
Passing sentence, Mr Connor said the charges before the court were "very serious matters."
When she was handed a suspended sentence, the woman wept.