A SELBY father whose four-year-old son was found by police in an empty house has been cleared of child abandonment.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared before Selby Magistrates’ Court after pleading not guilty to neglect.

The court heard the 27-year-old man had been drinking with a friend in Selby before they returned to his home at about 12.30am.

Anna Wilkinson, for the defendant, said the child, who was asleep when the men returned home, had been left in the care of a babysitter, who left when the men arrived.

She said the defendant was under the impression his friend would be staying the night. He then received a phone call from his girlfriend, asking him to meet her and walk with her to his property.

The defendant said: “She asked me to walk up to meet her to come back to mine because she didn’t want to walk up on her own, so I went out to meet her.

“I said ‘You don’t mind watching him until I get back do you’, and he said ‘no’, he was going to have another drink and watch television and go to bed himself.”

The court heard police attended the man’s home at about 1.10am in connection with an unrelated incident to find the lights and television on in the living room, but despite repeated knocks on the door, nobody answered. Officers gained entry to the property and found the child sleeping alone.

While police were still at the house, the father returned home, and was arrested after he told officers he had no keys to the property. He told the court: “I wouldn’t leave him alone. I spent two years fighting in court for him.”

Miss Wilkinson told magistrates: “You have to be sure that the defendant meant to leave his son there alone and that it was a deliberate wilful neglect that took place in terms of the boy being abandoned.

“The child was left in the care of someone who was competent to look after him. He went off for a short period of time and intended to return to the house with his friend still present. It had been his friend’s intention originally to stay over at the house.”

Magistrates ruled there was not enough evidence to suggest the man had intentionally left a child alone and found him not guilty.