21/12/2017 11:31 GMT | Updated 21/12/2017 13:40 GMT

Mums Discuss Leaving Kids In The Car While Paying For Petrol: Is It Legal?

Have you ever done it?

A mum sparked a discussion about whether or not it’s okay to leave a child alone in the car while you pay for petrol.

The Mumsnet user said she disagreed with her husband, who said he has left their 20-month-old alone in the car while paying.

“I’m horrified that he has left her and have said I really don’t want him to do that again, he thinks I am ridiculous and ‘it’s only for two minutes’,” the mum wrote.

 “Please settle this disagreement for me and my husband!” 

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Parents were split on whether they felt it was okay to leave a child alone in the car or not.

One person wrote: “Of course [I leave my child], a petrol station forecourt is far more dangerous with a wriggling toddler trying to escape than leaving them in the car. I lock it obviously.”

Another agreed, writing: “I leave mine. What is going to happen to them? I have my car keys with me so the car itself could not be stolen and I can see the car through the petrol station window so would notice if someone tried to kidnap them.”

However others felt that it would be too risky to leave a child alone.

“You shouldn’t do it really,” one mum wrote. “What if the car was stolen or another car hit the vehicle? It has happened [to me] in the past.”

Another wrote: “I always take my daughter, and I carry her across the forecourt. Honestly I’m surprised by the responses. No mums I know here leave their little ones - I thought your husband was in a minority.” 

Some other parents said they get round it by always getting petrol using the “pay at pump” option so they don’t have to leave their child. 

So what does the law say?

The website states: “Use your judgement on how mature your child is before you decide to leave them alone, e.g. at home or in a car.

“Parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’.”

Regarding age, the government refers to the NSPCC’s guidance that states: “Children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time; children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight and babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.”

Under the Children and Young Persons (England and Wales) Act 1933, the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 and the Children and Young Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1968, parents and carers can be prosecuted for “neglect” for leaving their child alone. 

This means that they can be fined or sent to prison if they are judged to have placed a child “at risk of harm by leaving them alone”, according to the NSPCC

Commenting on leaving a child alone while paying for petrol, Chris Cloke, head of safeguarding in the communities at NSPCC told HuffPost UK: “When left alone in a vehicle, young children can very quickly start to get anxious and distressed. Even if they’re sleeping peacefully when you leave they could well wake up and get very upset when you’re not there to look after them. They would not be able to protect themselves in an emergency and may even try to leave the vehicle to find you.

“As children become older parents need to exercise their own judgement. If they can see the car the whole time it may be sensible depending on your child’s maturity. Every child is different and every parent knows their child’s readiness to be left in this scenario.”

Read further advice on how to decide if your child is ready to be left at home alone on the NSPCC website.

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