x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Fatal accident cases are investigated thoroughly by police and prosecutors

Prosecutors carefully consider if a parent has been negligent and how any punishment will affect the family before deciding whether to press charges in cases where children are injured or killed.

DUBAI // There are fewer than five cases a year in Dubai of parents being prosecuted for negligence after a child falls from a high-rise building.

Every such tragedy is thoroughly investigated and the family’s situation carefully considered before a course of action is decided, said Ali Rustom, head of Family and Juvenile Prosecution.

“Sometimes the public hear of a child falling to his death, and driven by an emotional rush they start seeking the death penalty for the parents without knowing the real conditions,” he said.

Mr Rustom is the latest expert to speak out after a four-year-old boy fell to his death on Monday from a sixth-floor apartment in Sharjah. It was the second such death this month, and eight children in the past 14 months have died or been seriously injured falling from buildings.

The child’s mother, the only other person in the apartment when he fell, is under investigation by Sharjah police.

Parents have been urged not to delegate child care to untrained maids or cleaners, to make their homes safer and to learn more about the risks to a child of windows and balconies.

Mr Rustom said he always put himself in the place of any parent who faced prosecution for negligence after such a tragedy.

“When dealing with parents, it’s the welfare of the children that controls how we deal with them,” he said.

“We look at many factors and we keep in mind the welfare of the children if the parents had other children.

“We consider what would happen to the other children if the parents were jailed. We investigate the severity of the negligence, we look at whether the parents were good parents who took good care of their children but God’s will had its way of having one of their kids fall and get injured or die.

“We definitely seek a punishment, but we take into consideration the degree of negligence and the future of the other children who may be left without a father and a mother if the two were jailed.”

Ali Al Abadi, a lawyer in Abu Dhabi, said the police and public prosecution looked for strong evidence before prosecuting a parent or carer.

“They check what the circumstances were. In cases of children falling from buildings, which we are seeing regularly, they would question the parents: where they were, where the children were and how the child fell,” he said.

“In general, a parent must take responsibility for the child. It is their duty. Negligence leads to a crime.”

However, if a parent were convicted of negligence the sentence is less severe than if a maid or a relative were responsible, said Mr Al Abadi.

“The mother usually gets the chance to fix the issue by remaining close to the child and to try to provide protection,” he said. “She would probably be fined. The amount cannot be known until we have full details of the case.”

Mr Rustom called on municipalities to make sure balconies and windows in all buildings met safety standards to prevent fatal accidents involving children.

“We cannot control children, they move so quickly, they can be next to you but in a second they may jump to another location, so we have to take precautions.”


* Additional reporting by Yasin Kakande and Ayesha Al Khoori