Lessons to learn on ‘home alone’ kids

The Rev John Bennett: lessons should be learned.
The Rev John Bennett: lessons should be learned.
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A mum from Latvia was shopping when police broke into her flat and placed her home-alone, four-year-old daughter in emergency care. The mum believed her daughter would be safe while she went out for an hour.

But a neighbour alerted police and the mum, who at first thought her child had been abducted, ended up spending seven hours in a police cell.

Her elder child, now 14, got home to find police waiting and was taken to Spalding Police Station.

A report from Community Connectors – a church-led project to help integrate east Europeans into local society – says: “He was told his mother was at another police station; he was not given any details or reassurance about what was happening.

“During the seven hours he was there he was very stressed and upset and thought he and his sister would be taken away from his mother.”

Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett, who heads Community Connectors, says it is common in Latvia for parents to leave young children alone at home, but he believes lessons must be learned.

Mr Bennett said: “Behind this distressing incident are different assumptions about the safety of leaving a young child at home on their own.

“For the mum, coming from Latvia, where people are more used to looking out for their neighbours, the risk was perceived to be very low that the daughter would come to any harm.

“However, the law in this country reflects the safety-conscious approach that has grown up in the last couple of generations, where children are much more closely monitored; it is important that everyone knows the law and appreciates the consequences of breaking it.”

The incident happened in December, and last week the Free Press spoke to the mum Kristine (not her real name).

She explained she remains “really shocked” by what happened but now understands the law and will never again leave one of her children home alone.

Kristine’s grasp of English is incomplete and at one point she asked us to put a question to her again “using different words”.

She describes her understanding of Russian as “about the same” as her understanding of English.

Kristine first went to Spalding Police Station because she believed Anna had been abducted.

The Community Connectors report reveals Kristine was arrested there, but didn’t realise that until she was taken to Boston Police Station.

It says the mum was given a Russian-speaking translator and an English speaking solicitor while detained.

The report reveals it was a real ordeal for her daughter, who we are calling Anna.

It says: “Anna was obviously terrified to have someone break into the flat and take her away and to be put with a family who could not reassure her in her own language did not help to alleviate her fears.”

The family has since been reunited.

Kristine was given a community order with 80 hours unpaid work when she pleaded guilty in court to leaving Anna unsupervised.

Community Policing Inspector Gareth Boxall: “We cannot comment on an individual case but the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people will always be our priority. We take incidents of concern and neglect of children seriously and work closely with our partners to act upon such reports.

“In any case where someone feels that they have been treated unfairly by the Police we would urge them to consider making a complaint to our Professional Standards Department. We are always keen to work with community groups and will be contacting Rev Bennett.”

• What do you think? Email readers’ letters to jeremy.ransome@iliffepublishing.co.uk