Mum on probation for boys left alone

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am

Magistrate tells tearful 21-year-old she neglected toddlers to party across border

A fun-seeking young woman who admitted leaving her two toddler sons at home alone while she went partying across the border was yesterday placed on supervised probation to learn how to be a mother.

Fighting back tears, the remorseful 21-year-old was sentenced by Tuen Mun Principal Magistrate Kwok Wai-kin who said she had neglected the two children several times in the past.

'This is not a one-off incident,' he told her. 'You have been placing your own interests, pleasure in partying and playing computers before your two children. This is unacceptable and you should be penalised.'

But he spared her a rehabilitation sentence, noting her genuine remorse and saying she was a victim of her stupidity and stubbornness in her relationship with a married man who did not assume his responsibility as a father to the boys.

Director of Social Welfare Paul Tang Kwok-wai said her sons, aged 15 and 29 months, would remain with a foster family in the meantime but might be given back to her if she did well on probation.

The court heard earlier the woman had locked her sleeping children in their Tin Shui Wai home unattended for seven hours while she went to Shenzhen with her live-in boyfriend. They were found when neighbours heard their cries.

The mother, who cannot be named, admitted that she had been a fun-seeker who enjoyed partying, drinking and playing on computers.

But she realised her faults after being remanded in jail for two months and she pleaded for a chance to adjust herself better to parenthood.

She was placed on 18 months' probation during which she must attend supervised workshops, training and employment, and must return to court on June 25 to report her progress. She had pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse between January 15 and 18.

The court also heard that the mother had several times shut her crying children between a wooden door and an iron gate at her home and released them only after pleas from neighbours.

Accepting a favourable probation report, Mr Kwok said it was important for the children to grow up with the care and guidance of a mother. He also advised her to review the relationship with her boyfriend.

The court received a number of mitigation letters from the mother, her parents and siblings.

Leaving court accompanied by her elder sister and father, the mother refused to answer questions from reporters.

The Social Welfare Department said the boys were now under care of the foster family. Social workers from the department would continue to render counselling services and parenting workshops to the mother.

The court earlier heard how she called her neighbour on the afternoon of January16 and asked her to babysit her children because she was about to leave that night to the mainland. She hung up before her neighbour agreed to the arrangement. Later that night, her neighbours found her sons crying inside the house and called the police.

Police found the front door and iron gate locked when they arrived. When they entered the house with a key, they found the children on a nylon bed inside a small room with a padlock hung on its door.

The boys were given a medical check-up at hospital but had suffered no injuries.

Their mother surrendered to the police the next morning after crossing the border at Lok Ma Chau.

Social welfare chief Mr Tang said he respected the court's ruling. He said he hoped the mother would manage her life on probation and learn how to take good care of her sons.