There have been a number of disturbing news stories this week about young, vulnerable children being left unsupervised by their parents.
On Sunday, police say a 3-year-old child had spent an hour wandering alone in the Merivale area in pouring rain before police were contacted.
Then, yesterday, the Bay of Plenty Times reported that a manager in his 40s left his 4-year-old child at home alone and then tried to evade police at a checkpoint. The man returned a breath alcohol reading of more than 900mcg of alcohol per litre of breath.
On the same day, the paper carried a story about a mother - who left her five children in a van in a SkyCity Casino carpark while she and her partner gambled - escaping a conviction because she wants to, of all things, become a social worker.
This pair were charged with leaving a child unsupervised, which carried a maximum penalty of a $2000 fine.
Judge Grant Fraser decided not to convict the woman despite police opposition. The woman's partner was not so lucky, he was convicted because he had previous convictions.
I question the rationale behind the decision not to convict the woman.
Surely, behaviour like this would indicate that this person is not an ideal candidate to be a social worker - a profession that demands a good deal of human empathy and understanding.
That this pair could leave their children in a car park for two hours - albeit checking on them once for a minute - while they gambled reveals a serious lack of judgment.
According to the court report, the children - aged between 11 months and 9 years of age - were found after a couple heard hysterical crying coming from the van and called police.
How anyone could think leaving five children under 10 unsupervised in a car for two hours or leaving a 4-year-old child home alone is a good idea is beyond me.
These cases, in my view illustrate a propensity on the parents' behalf to put their own needs ahead of those of their children.
The justice system needs to send a strong message that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable. A conviction may have ruled out this mother's ambition of becoming a social worker and that, to me, would have been a suitable consequence for her actions and poor decisions on the day she and her partner elected to visit the casino rather than look after their children.