Skip to main content

Home Alone - law and cases in the UK and abroad

Justice for Families has been publicly campaigning on the issue of the law in respect of children left at home without parental or other adult supervision. Our biggest concern is that the law is not clear. The government claim that parents are allowed to decide whether their child is mature enough to be left alone. That, however, is not true. What happens is that either the police or local authority social workers decide whether in their opinion the parents have neglected their child.

What is most unfair is when parents are prosecuted or have their children taken off them for something which they have done reasonably and with the best intentions for their child/children.

There is, in fact, no published information about what does happen and when action is taken. Some of the cases are covered by family court secrecy which makes it much harder to review the case. Others have injunctions on the criminal cases which make looking at the case harder. However, here are a few examples:

  1. Dad left a toddler in the car for five minutes whilst getting Calpol. Dad was convicted in the magistrates court, but this decision was reversed on appeal.
  2. Mum, who was a working single mother, left the house before the babysitter arrived. The babysitter was delayed and turned up after the landlord had called the police. The toddler had filled her nappy and had a nappy rash. Mum was cautioned by the police and her baby was forcibly adopted into another family. The local authority had recently increased their adoption targets.
  3. Dad left his 8 and 6 year olds at home whilst he went to the bank. The children were tired and did not want to go to the bank. The police knocked on the door searching for evidence as to a the murder of Mohammed Saleem and the children admitted to being home alone. The children were taken into care and dad was banned from caring for them.
  4. Mum and her partner went on holiday leaving another adult to look after the 12 year old. The other adult did not sleep in the same house as the 12 year old. The teachers called the police who prosecuted mum and her partner, but they were found not guilty.

The only published guidance in England is from the NSPCC here. Personally I think it is over the top to say that a child must be 12 before you can go to the shops without the child. Particularly in an era with mobile phones and other communication systems it should not be necessary for a child to be dragged out of the house because of state edict.

It appears to me that the police and social workers are following the NSPCC guidance when it has no statutory basis. There are places where this guidance is the law, however.
Addendum 14/03/16 - The NSPCC spokesperson has just said (on the Radio) that leaving an average 10 year old whilst going to the shops for an hour should be OK.

What the UK Needs

  1. Firstly, we need to tell people what is happening and this needs to be discussed publicly. There is no collated information as to what decisions police and social workers are taking.
  2. Secondly, we need to have a public debate about what the risks are and what more detailed and whether more flexible guidance is needed than that from the NSPCC. Many other countries such as Germany allow younger children to be regularly home alone. What about when the parents have a mobile phone and there is a 9 year old left at home able to speak to their parents whilst they go to the shops?
  3. Thirdly, we need to consider what is optimal, what is ill advised and what should be criminal or require action from the local authority.
  4. Finally, we need to be more supportive of parents who generally try to do what is best for their children. The judgment of parents should be treated with some respect.

The situation in other countries

This is a particularly useful document from the US Government which summarises the situation in the USA. It includes: " Only three States currently have laws regarding a minimum age for leaving a child home alone. Illinois law requires children to be 14 years old before being left alone; in Maryland, the minimum age is 8, while in Oregon, children must be 10 before being left home alone." This is an interesting court case in Canada where the courts decided to change the law such that children had to be 10 before being regularly left at home alone.
This is from Australia. Germany and Switzerland seem to be quite tolerant of children left home alone during the day from about 7.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Statement re Police investigation into Harassment and Perverting the Course of Justice.

It was recently reported that the police were not investigating the allegations of Perverting the Course of Justice that I had made. This came as a surprise to me as I had been told for some time that my allegations were to be considered once the VRR had been rejected. I have now had a very constructive meeting with Staffordshire police on Friday 29th June 2018 and the misunderstandings have been resolved. At that meeting the evidence relating to the perversion of the course of justice and the harassment campaign against my family were discussed. The police have decided to investigate both the perversion of the course of justice and also the harassment campaign. I would like to thank them for changing their decision and I accept their apology for the way in which they did that. I am also in possession of written confirmation a police force would be investigating allegations that a vulnerable witness has been harassed for trying to expose the campaign against me. I hope that the aut…

Statement re false allegations from Esther Baker

Statement by John Hemming
I am pleased that the Police have now made it clear that there has been a concerted effort to promote false criminal allegations against me and that the allegations had no substance whatsoever.
I would like to thank Emily Cox, my children, Ayaz Iqbal (my Solicitor), my local lib dem team and many others who supported me through this dreadful experience. There are many worse things that happen to people, but this was a really bad experience.
It is bad enough to have false allegations made about yourself to the police, but to have a concerted campaign involving your political opponents and many others in public creates an environment in which it is reasonable to be concerned about ill founded vigilante attacks on your family and yourself. Luckily there was a more substantial lobby to the contrary as well, which included many people who were themselves real survivors of abuse, which has helped.
I am normally someone who helps other people fight injustice. …

Service launched to reduce the pain of calling a call centre.

Click here to try the beta test call entre phoning service"John Hemming, who has created an internet Startup called Cirrostratus since he ceased being an MP, is launching a free online service to make life easier for people phoning call centres.   The service is provided by Cirrostratus, but the SIP backbone is provided by the multi-award winning business VoIP solution, Soho66." John said, "Many people find phoning call centres a real pain.  Our service is aiming to make things a lot easier.   One click on alink or the bookmarks list and our server will phone up the call centre and get through all the menus.  This is a lot faster than when people have to phone up and is less irritating." "Additionally the system uses WebRtc and the internet to make the call. This means that people don't find their normal phone system being blocked whilst they hang on the line waiting to speak to a human being." Marketing Manager from Soho66, David McManus, said: &q…