An Angus man who smoked so-called legal highs in front of a sick nine-month-old baby before abandoning the tot in a parked car has narrowly avoided prison.
Frank Mearns dumped the child in the vehicle outside a house in Forfar for around 15 minutes to return inside and abuse more psychoactive substances, in an offence branded “utterly reprehensible” by a furious sheriff.
Mearns has now moved away from Angus and secured work as a chef in the Doncaster area, and Sheriff Gregor Murray at Forfar said it was only a lack of recent record and the turnaround in his circumstances which had saved the 45-year-old from a “richly deserved” jail term.
The accused admitted a charge of wilfully exposing the child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary or injury to its health by consuming psychoactive substances in the boy’s presence at a property in Forfar last November, placing him in the rear of a car and then leaving the vehicle unattended, before driving in the knowledge that he had consumed the psychoactive substance.
Mearns also pleaded guilty to taking and driving away a car from the property.
He court heard a horrified Angus Council worker had been at the property and saw Mearns and a friend smoking the substances.
Depute fiscal Kirsten Thomson said the worker’s view was that the pair were “significantly under the influence” and told them that they shouldn’t be doing it.
“The accused took the car keys, placed the baby within the car and then returned,” added the fiscal.
“The child was left for around ten to fifteen minutes before the accused left and drove away.”
Police became involved later that day when the accused’s friend went to report his car being taken, but was still under the influence and did not make “an awful lot of sense”, the court was told.
Defence solicitor Stuart Mackie said that in hindsight Mearns recognised his actions had been “pretty stupid”.
He said the child had suffered from meningitis around that time.
“He is aware that all options are open,” added the solicitor.
Sheriff Murray told Mearns: “Mr Mackie has described this as pretty stupid, I would describe it as utter lunacy.
“You richly deserve a sentence of imprisonment, but I have to balance factors including that you have no analogous convictions and essentially no previous convictions for 12 years.
“I am persuaded, just, that there is an alternative to imprisonment.”
Sheriff Murray imposed a one-year Community Payback Order, with a supervision requirement and 200 hours of unpaid work, the maximum number available to the court in the circumstances.