Dominion Post 10 June 2013
A grossly drunk mother whose two young boys had to be rescued by neighbours from their smouldering bedroom, has had charges of failing to protect them dismissed by a judge.
Judge Stephen Harrop said the woman, who had collapsed drunk in the street, was negligent and had placed herself and her children at significant risk from an overturned heater.
But he said police had failed to prove that she had not taken reasonable steps to prevent injury to the children.
She faced two charges under new provisions in the Crimes Act that could have seen her face a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.
The judge, in Wellington District Court, said the new law was in response to concerns about serious violence to children.
“However, it may capture minor breaches if the gross negligence threshold has been reached.”
The court heard that neighbours had to intervene three times in July last year, finally removing the two small boys from the house.
The first time they found the woman grossly drunk and collapsed in the street. Shortly after helping her inside, they could smell smoke and found a heater had overturned in the boys’ bedroom and the carpet was smouldering. They put it out but left the boys there with her.
The third time, they heard them calling out and found the woman sitting in the hallway with the scared boys in her arms.
She was also charged with obstruction of police after an officer went into the house.
The judge said her behaviour was a major departure from the standard of care to be expected of a reasonable person, but it did not breach the Crimes Act.