Two barefoot children were seen wandering the streets in West Yorkshire in their pyjamas after their alcoholic mum left them “home alone” while she went out drinking, a judge heard.
The youngsters, both under five, were helped by a concerned member of the public and lorry driver when they were found in the early hours of March 15 having crossed over the busy Sticker Lane in Bradford.
The man gave the youngsters, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, some coats to keep warm while the lorry driver put a blanket over the distressed children after they were helped into his cab.
Bradford Crown Court heard that their mum, who also cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, had left their home at about 9pm the previous night supposedly to go to a nearby shop but she ended up staying out until nearly 6am the following morning.
After spending a couple of hours in one pub the mum, who had a previous conviction for almost identical child neglect involving her two children, got a taxi to another pub in the city centre.
Prosecutor Richard Walters said the lorry driver was horrified when he realised that the children must have crossed the busy road before they were found that night.
The two children were taken into care while police officers kept watch on the home until their mum, who is in her 30s, arrived back at about 5.50am.
She initially told them that she had been to a shop and the children were at a relative’s but she then admitted: “I went to get some alcohol and then went to the pub.”
The mum said she had left the children alone in bed and agreed it was “wrong and dangerous.”
The defendant, who had come to court with a suitcase expecting to go to prison, was given a community order for a similar “home alone” offence in 2015 and the Recorder of Bradford Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC made her subject to a 14-month jail term suspended for two years after she again admitted child neglect charges.
She must also do 250 hours unpaid work and comply with a 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
The court was told that the two children were now subject to an interim care order and their mum was only allowed contact with them three times a week.
The mum’s barrister Abigail Langford said her client had a long-standing difficulty with excessive drinking but she had recently started an alcohol course and a counselling programme.
Miss Langford said the defendant had not initially intended to go out of the house for as long as she did, but things had “spiralled out of control.”
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“The children are no longer at risk from her because they are in a safe environment,” submitted Miss Langford.
The court heard that the mum wanted to have her children back, but Miss Langford said it was unknown whether the local authority took the view that they ought to be placed back with the defendant.
“There is a process ongoing,” she added.
Judge Durham Hall said the defendant had been subject to “a whole range of problems” and he urged any commentators to acknowledge that he had “very significant information” before him about her.
“You have an appalling problem with alcohol and in drink you are aggressive and anti-social,” he told the defendant.
“You assault police officers and you wholly forget your responsibilities as a mother.”
The judge said her alcoholism had got the better of her that night and added: “Many people will simply not understand how a mother can leave children alone and go off drinking for nine hours.
“The two children were so concerned about their position, and you, that they wandered off looking for you.
“It’s a very sad and upsetting scenario isn’t it and they crossed a very busy road before well-meaning bystanders helped.”
The judge noted that the children were now in a safe and happy environment and he indicated that they should stay there subject to the better view of the family courts.
Judge Durham Hall concluded that the defendant needed intensive assistance to rid herself of “an evil disease” and he was prepared to follow the recommendations of the probation service.