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Parents' 'behaviour contract' put child at risk

Parents' 'behaviour contract' put child at risk

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Parents' 'behaviour contract' put child at risk

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Parents who confiscated their teenager's mattress and forced them to sign a ‘contract’ including ‘penalties’ for not carrying out chores adequately have pleaded guilty to putting “a child at risk of harm”.

The couple, who cannot be named, as it would reveal the identity of the child, will be sentenced in the Magistrate’s Court at a later date.

The case came to light after the police were alerted because the child appeared “withdrawn” at school. The youngster was then interviewed and shared their story.

The teen’s parents had drawn up a “legalistically written contract” under which the child had to carry out certain chores such as cleaning the bathroom and shower. 

If they were happy with the child’s performance, a tick on a progress chart would be given. If they were not, however, the teenager would get a cross.

Penalties included having to run seven laps of the area in which they lived. 

There were also certain terms and conditions about when, and how many times, the teenager was able to see their friends.

The progress chart dictated the amount of pocket money the youngster would get. This was calculated on a sliding scale starting at £5 a week depending on how the parents felt their child had done.

A doctor was asked to inspect the teenager. He said there were no signs of malnutrition but did notice the child had bruising on their back. 

The doctor said these injuries were consistent with a claim that the child had been sleeping on the floor because their parents had confiscated the child’s mattress for a week.

The child was living on one meal of rice and vegetables a day which they had to cook themselves. 

The two defence lawyers told the court the parents admitted to being “overzealous” but argued the ‘contract’ and ‘rewards scheme’ were more “tongue in cheek” than serious, and that they had not been in force for long.

They did, however, admit that a similar "regime" had been in place for a number of weeks.

Defence Advocate James Bell also read out a quote from the teenager’s police interview in which the child said the so-called “contract” was “not that bad”, that their parents were “just joking”, and that it had “not really started yet”. 

Advocate Bell also stressed that at no time was there any indication of the parents using violence.

Assistant Magistrate Peter Harris agreed, but nevertheless said the ‘contract’ had the potential to cause “immeasurable mental health issues” to the child.

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