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Durban - Children’s rights lobby groups have called for harsher punishment for negligent parents who leave their children unattended in cars in dangerously hot conditions.
This follows two incidents at Durban’s Suncoast Casino this week when children had to be rescued from locked cars.
On Wednesday, a high court assessor left his one-year-old grandson in his locked car for more than two hours while he roamed the casino.
Passers-by noticed the child struggling in the car during the extremely humid conditions and alerted the police.
Two days earlier, police officers had to smash a car window to rescue two children, aged five and eight, after their father had left them in the car while he spent more than an hour at the casino.
Both men, whose names are known to Independent Newspapers but who cannot be identified because it would identify the children, were arrested and have appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court.
They have been released on R1 000 bail each and are scheduled to appear in court again next month.
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed the incidents and the men’s court appearances.
Both matters had been postponed for further investigation, he said.
Joan van Niekerk, Childline’s national co-ordinator, asked the courts to throw the book at the suspects if they were found guilty of abandoning the children.
“This occurrence is not going to stop until the law takes it seriously.
“Perpetrators should be charged criminally and given stiffer sentences,” she said.
According to a police source who asked not to be named, the 35-year-old father of two, from Gauteng, made a few excuses as to why his children were locked in the car, eventually admitting that he had had R150 with which to gamble at the casino.
The 58-year-old grandfather had claimed he was looking for his wife during the time the toddler was locked in the car, the source said. He apparently claimed that his search had been prolonged because his wife’s cellphone had been switched off.
Suncoast marketing manager Louise Howell confirmed that three cases of child negligence had been recorded at the casino in the past 12 months.
“Cases of this nature are handled in a most serious light and are not tolerated,” she said.
“In both the recent instances, our security department responded timeously.
“Once the respective next of kin had been located, they were issued with a refusal of entry valid for 24 months, as per Suncoast’s policy.
Van Niekerk said people couldn’t claim to be ignorant to the dangers of locking children in cars because there had been much publicity on the issue.
Vukani Mbele, spokesman for the Department of Social Development, condemned the incidents.
“It is highly irresponsible for adults to subject children to such trauma. What kind of parent or grandparent will leave a child in a locked car for any amount of time?” asked Mbele.
“We strongly condemn what has happened,” he added. - Sunday Independent