Father abandons baby to visit strip club

23:17, Apr 13 2010
The Courtenay Place strip club where the absent father was found
LURE OF THE MERMAID: The Courtenay Place strip club where the absent father was found. His baby had been left alone in a parked car.

Appalled Child, Youth and Family workers have taken a one-year-old baby into care after his father left him unattended in a car while he watched strippers in a nearby Wellington bar.

The children's commissioner says leaving a baby alone is an "extreme form of neglect".

A passer-by noticed the child about 3am yesterday and contacted police, who arrived within seven minutes and broke a window of the locked car to rescue the baby. They took him to Wellington police station but he was later taken to Wellington Hospital by ambulance staff concerned about his breathing.

Strip club baby
1. A passer-by spots a baby in a car about 3am Tuesday and calls police. 2. The boy is removed from the car about 3.10am and taken to Wellington police station. An ambulance then takes him to Wellington Hospital. 3. Police find the baby’s father in nearby strip club Mermaid. He is believed to have been there for about 40 minutes. 4. The child is transferred to Palmerston North Hospital under CYF's care.

The father was found in the nearby Mermaid strip club, where he was arrested on an outstanding warrant for unrelated "minor" charges, Inspector Simon Perry said.

"He was not being actively sought by the police for [the warrant] and he will appear on those charges when he goes to court."

Mermaid owner Michael Chow would not comment on the case.

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The arrested man is to appear in court on Monday on a charge of leaving a child under the age of 14 without reasonable supervision.

"In Wellington, it's not a common occurrence but we do applaud the member of the public who did ring and advise us," Mr Perry said.

"Someone else may have seen the child and used that opportunity to abduct [him] because at that time of the morning, there are all types of people around the city."

It is understood a domestic dispute happened between the man and his partner before he left Palmerston North, taking the baby with him.

The baby spent yesterday in Wellington Hospital children's ward.

The young boy had been taken to hospital by ambulance services, who were "not happy with his colour and breathing", a police spokesman said.

But a hospital spokesman said the baby was unhurt and "perfectly happy" yesterday. "He was sleeping merrily when the police grabbed him."

CYF had invoked a law that allowed it to take the baby into custody for up to five days while it decided who would care for him, the spokesman said. Staff collected him from the hospital yesterday afternoon and planned to transfer him to Palmerston North Hospital to be cared for while the agency discussed with his extended family what should happen next.

CYF deputy chief executive Ray Smith said it was not acceptable to leave a baby alone in a car at any time, for any reason.

"I'm astonished and appalled that a father would leave a young baby in a car in the middle of the night while he visited a strip club." The agency would be "working closely" with police and the baby's family to determine what should happen next.

Children's Commissioner John Angus said leaving a child alone in a car at night was an "extreme form of neglect".

"This sort of case ... is the extreme end of what's all too common for children in New Zealand."

He was hopeful other relatives would step in. "Often an incident like this triggers someone in the extended family to say, `Hell, this isn't good enough for our grandchild or niece or nephew'."

The Dominion Post