Mother discharged after baby left in car

ROB KIDD
Last updated 08:41 26/02/2014

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A woman who left her one-year-old daughter in a hot car for an hour and a half, prompting concerned mall staff to break in and rescue her, has escaped any penalty.

The 27-year-old woman was discharged without conviction at her sentencing in the Auckland District Court yesterday and Judge Philip Recordon also granted her permanent name suppression.

On July 9, the woman took her two daughters to Sylvia Park Mall in Auckland's Mt Wellington.

She and the older girl went into The Warehouse - leaving the sleeping baby strapped into a car seat in the back - and returned to the car 40 minutes later.

The woman and toddler returned to the car for lunch before going back to The Warehouse, again leaving the one-year-old behind.

At 2.15pm - 95 minutes after the family arrived at the complex - staff from The Warehouse heard loud crying and went to investigate.

''The staff member followed the sounds of the cries and has located the victim, strapped into her car seat, alone in the vehicle. At this time the victim was trying to cough and was crying hysterically,'' the summary of facts read.

Security staff were immediately called to break into the vehicle. Once the baby was removed, staff noticed her jacket was saturated with sweat and that her hair was also wet.

Eventually the 27-year-old mother was found shopping and was taken to her car where an ambulance had arrived.

The baby was taken to Starship Hospital but was discharged shortly afterwards.

When interviewed by police the woman said her daughter had the flu and she had not wanted to disturb her while she was sleeping.

In September she pleaded guilty to a charge of child neglect and according to the charging document ''omitted to perform her legal duty to protect her from injury - dehydration, heat stroke and choking - a major departure from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person''.

After the incident the woman was diagnosed with post-natal depression and had engaged with Child Youth and Family, which was giving her ongoing support.

Police prosecutor Catherine Vailahi accepted a discharge without conviction might be appropriate but argued against permanent suppression of the offender's name because of the premise of open justice.

But Judge Recordon disagreed.

''There's open justice to the extent you're standing in court and people are watching the process. But for your name to be spread over the media . . . it's not in my view justified,'' he said.

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