DUBAI // A mother who left her five children for 10 months as she hid from creditors has been handed a suspended one-month prison sentence.
ZA, 27 and unemployed, left her two maids to care for her three boys and two girls, who are between two and 10 years old, while she lived at a friend's house in Abu Dhabi, hiding from creditors to whom she owed Dh800,000. This continued for 10 months, before one of the mother's other friends paid her an unannounced visit, discovered the children's situation and informed police.
When Dubai Police visited the house they found the children in poor condition. Only two of them were registered in school, and during the mother's absence the eldest son sustained an injury that required surgery when a fellow pupil shut a door on his hand.
She left the children in July 2011 to look for a job after being dismissed from her work with Dubai Police and would pay only occasional visits to her house - during which she would order the maids to lock the children in a room so they could not see her. She said she did so "because when they see me they would hold on to me and ask me to take them with me".
She said her debts had accumulated because she needed frequent loans to provide for her children as her husband had cut them off after the pair divorced in 2009. Under their divorce settlement she promised to take care of the children while the father agreed to provide financial support.
The father said he had been paying the children's expenses as ordered, adding that he had filed a lawsuit to regain custody of them because he believed his wife was neglecting them.
The woman confessed to a charge of endangering the lives of her children but argued that the father should have faced a similar charge. The court disagreed, pointing out that she had been granted custody of her children at the time they were left alone.
The children have since been put in the father's custody.
The Family and Juveniles Court suspended the woman's sentence for three years - meaning she will have to serve it only if she repeats the offence in that time frame.