Ipswich: Community order for man who left child alone only for house to catch fire

Firefighters were called to Athena Hall.

Firefighters were called to Athena Hall. - Credit: Archant

A man who left a young child alone in a house which later caught fire has been given a one-year community order.

Val Haynes, of Ramsey Close, Ipswich, was sentenced at South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court after previously pleading guilty to abandoning a child.

As part of his community order the 50-year-old was also ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work.

He was also told he must pay £85 costs and £60 to the victims’ fund.

Haynes had been looking after the child at a property in the town earlier this year before leaving it to pick a friend up from work.

He had volunteered to look after the child because the person who usually did this was unavailable.

Having looked after the child through the day, Haynes received a call to pick a friend up from work in the evening.

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When he asked the child to come with him, they became difficult and refused.

During his earlier hearing it was said that although he was not happy with leaving the child, Haynes decided he would because he thought he would be back quickly. However when he returned to the house around half an hour later, Haynes found the house on fire with police and fire crews in attendance.

An investigation showed the fire had probably been started by the child playing with a cigarette lighter.

A neighbour had noticed the fire and tried to get into the house but could not because the doors had been locked. In the end she saw the child and told them to go to the living room and open a window through which the child was rescued.

Magistrates had previously heard Haynes had no previous convictions and would normally have been at work but was on holiday.

Clare Hullock, his solicitor, said he was just trying to help out and when he tried to organise the child to get into the car they became “stroppy”.

Ms Hullock added Haynes regretted the incident “most bitterly and dreadfully” and was haunted by what could have happened to the child, the property and other people.