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Friday, 25 July 2014

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Couple who left boy, 12, home alone cleared of neglect

A couple have been cleared of neglect after a 12-year-old boy had been left at home alone.

Related: Stepfather sent ‘look after boy’ text to man, Carlisle court told

The case against the boy’s mother and stepfather was thrown out by Judge Paul Batty at Carlisle Crown Court.

The boy had previously told the court he was left home alone near Penrith with just £20 and a few microwave meals while the couple jetted off on a week’s holiday to Spain.

The couple denied they had “abandoned” the boy, with the stepfather saying they made proper arrangements for another couple to look after him.

Judge Batty directed the jury in the trial to return not guilty verdicts after he concluded they would not be able properly convict the couple.

He said this was because of inconsistencies in the evidence of the main witness, who had been asked to look after the boy while the couple were away.

Judge Batty told jurors that the man, who he said he was not criticising, had given different accounts at different times to different people about what had happened. The court had previously heard how the stepfather had sent a text to the man asking him to look after his stepson.

But the fact that the text had been deleted “undermined” what the man said about the case, the stepfather’s defence solicitor Tim Evans said.

The couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denied a charge they “wilfully assaulted, ill treated, neglected, abandoned or exposed him in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health”.

In throwing the case out Judge Batty said: “It is a very rare situation because almost always it is for the jury to decide.

“But there are cases where the evidence is not there of sufficient weight for the jury to consider the ultimate future of these two defendants.”

He added that there had been no suggestion in the case that in other circumstances the couple were “anything other than excellent parents”.

Judge Batty also described the 12-year-old boy as “bright, articulate and intelligent”.

Earlier in the five-day trial, the boy told the court he only learned that his mother and stepfather were going away by “sneaking a look” at their Facebook messages a few days before they left. The boy said that when they asked him how he felt about it he told them he did not foresee any problems.

At the trial’s conclusion, the Crown Prosecution Service said it has not yet decided if it will appeal.

The couple declined to comment afterwards.

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