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17 May 2007


Kate Robison

I totally agree about the comments that they, highly educated people, could even consider leaving the Childern alone. On holidays abroad we always had either, a baby monitor while in the same building ,the hotel child minding service(Which they declined?)or were all up late together.If these had been working class parents there would have been more public and political censure.

Peter Harvey

Kate Robison has made a point that was in my mind. I don't think that a family from Burnley who left a child alone in a flat in Blackpool while they went to the pub would get quite the same sympathy if things went wrong.

In fact isn't it illegal in Britain to leave a child alone unattended?

Brian Barder

I'm afraid I disagree about the parents, who have been vilified in the media for leaving their children alone while they went out to "eat and drink" (wicked couple!) -- or, as we more usually say, went out to have their supper. They were checking every half-hour or so that the children were all right, which seems to me (a parent of three children) perfectly reasonable. The idea that it's irresponsible to leave sleeping children alone for even a few minutes is to my mind totally unrealistic, and a good example of the risk-averse paranoia that has gripped everyone in recent years. Of course very occasionally the worst will happen, but the odds on it happening must be similar to the risk of being run over when you cross the road, and few of us regard that as a sufficiently likely eventuality to stop us ever crossing the road. Trying to avoid any risk any of the time is a mug's game.

The hail-storm of blame being heaped on the unfortunate parents of Madeleine must be adding immeasurably to the crushing sense of guilt they are inevitably suffering -- and would be suffering even if no-one in the media or the blogosphere had said a word of criticism of them. The idea that they are being shielded from blame by their middle-class status as doctors, and that less exalted parents would be even more harshly blamed, can only be harboured by someone who hasn't been watching daytime UK television or listening to the radio phone-ins or reading the tabloids (and even the heavies).

What's perhaps even worse, the blame-storm being visited on the parents will make tens of thousands of other sensible, caring and careful parents feel even more guilty about sometimes leaving their children alone while they snatch a few minutes of ordinary life together, making the bringing up of children even more unnecessarily burdensome than it is already.




I am a mother and grandmother. This is nothing to do with modern "risk adverse paranoia". 20-odd years ago I would never have left my young child on their own in a house or flat. Not because I would have been worried about abduction, but because I would have worried about choking, fire and all the other terrible things that might have happened.

No one is saying that you shouldn't be allowed to leave the children and go for a meal or whatever. The McCanns' weren't wrong for doing so BUT they did have a responsibility to ensure that their three children under 5 had an adult looking after them.

My understanding is that the initial story said that they were checking every 30 minutes, then every hour, then perhaps even longer than that. I also understand that there was a creche available and individual babysitters. The McCanns chose not to use either of those facilities. That is unforgivable.

At the end of the day, if a parent is unable to obtain suitable care for their small child, then they don't leave the child. That is part of the responsibility of being a parent. If anyone doesn't want that responsibility then they shouldn't have children. My youngest daughter has decided not to have children at the moment for that very reason - she and her husband enjoy going to parties and weekends away. That is their choice, but at least they have made a responsible choice.

The McCanns wanted to have their cake and eat it too. Now their want not only our sympathy but our money! To my mind, the people that deserve sympathy are their children. The McCanns' haven't even had the decency to admit that they made an error of judgement.

Aside from all this, don't believe that the commentators aren't hoping and praying that Maddie is found. I hope she is safe and well and being looked after somewhere. I pray that no harm has come to this innocent child.

Brian Barder


I respect your views. But I don't agree with them. The parents were in the same resort area as their villa where the children were sleeping; hardly different really from being in the same building. Did you never leave your children in their bedrooms while you had a meal elsewhere in the house -- or did you check every 30 minutes (or 20? or 10? or 5?) to make sure that they hadn't choked or started a fire or done anything else that parents wake up worrying about at 4 o'clock in the morning? Every now and then, sure; last thing before going to bed yourself, first thing in the morning, of course. But during the night?

My wife and I took the view when we were on holiday and our kids were small that it was unnecessary, would even have been neurotic, to hire a babysitter to sit with them during the short time it would take us to walk across a courtyard to the motel coffee-shop (or whatever) for a quick supper, one of us popping back every so often to make sure they were OK. I don't think that was irresponsible. Parents can't be with their children every minute of every hour of every day, and if they leave them for even ten minutes, something terrible could happen to them. If it does, they are consumed with guilt; anyone would be. It's a question of assessing the degree of risk and balancing it against the reasonable imperative to lead a normal life occasionally. We do that every day without incurring odium. Every now and then we guess wrong and the improbable happens. Seems to me that's probably what happened to the McCanns. They deserve pity, not odium (nor, probably, our money).

I would accept that if these parents left the children for as long as an hour in a separate building, however near, that was a misjudgement. Momentary inattention when driving a car at speed is also a misjudgement, and inexcusable in principle, but every driver on earth is guilty of it. One time in a hundred thousand it results in the death of a child; the driver goes to prison and suffers a sense of guilt for the rest of his or her life. But, as the appalling Rumsfeld remarked, stuff happens. We all just hope that it doesn't happen to us, and we should reserve a little charity for others to whom it does. I'm sure you do.

PS: I'm a grandparent too!



I think we're going to have to agree to disagree!


Peter Harvey

A couple of points:

1) Who is managing this fund-raising campaign, and who is auditing it?

2) What commercial, media, or political organisations are behind it? Believe me, when it gets this big it is not totally independent.


It is illegal to leave children under 12 unattended, and I agree that if these parents had been working class the story would have been very different, and they may even have been arrested.

What on earth is going on here? I am not a conspiracist, but something beyond this unfortunate but relatively commonplace disappearance must be afoot.

Brian Barder

>>It is illegal to leave children under 12 unattendednegligence on the part of those responsible for looking after children, but my guess is that it would be for the court to decide in each individual case whether specific behaviour in the specific circumstances in question amounted to negligence or not. But that's a rather different matter. Tony is probably best placed to comment on these matters, assuming that his legal expertise extends to Portuguese law?


I wonder why people seem so hostile to the fact that there appears to be at least some complicity here. It is not legal/responsible/acceptable in any jurisdiction (for some value of all of those) for there to be no adult on the premises. Quibbling about how near to a room one must be is moot, when it is clear that these parents cannot have been within earshot of the building, never mind the room itself.

Oh and I believe we are all entitled to comment, and am surprised as the days go by that there is such slight critical meeja, just this sugary overwheening sympathy.


thank the lord that some people at least have not jumped on the band wagon to keep the McCann's on their extended holiday, I have five children thankfully grown up now but never not once did they get left on there own, I pray every day for little Madeleine that she is found safe and well, I also pray that her so called parents are brought to account for what they have caused by leaving three babies on there own, is it supposed to be acceptable because they popped back every now and then to check on the children my God it would have taken no more than a couple of minutes if there had been a fire or something. It seems we are in a blame someone else world lets not forget that the McCann’s left three helpless babies alone surely it is every parents responsibility to keep their children safe. a little girl is missing and her parents are flirting around the place like two A list celebs how wrong is that.

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