EVESHAM parents, who came close to losing their children after the father left their toddler alone in his car for five minutes, have spoken out about their ordeal.

Julie and Tim Haines were faced with an unexpected battle against social services to keep their youngest children in 2004 after Mr Haines left two-year-old Iset in the car in Evesham High Street as he nipped to buy Calpol.

"It was just an ordinary day," said the father of five. "I dropped my daughter at nursery, parked at the chemist in the high street. It's what everybody does.

"I came outside and there were two policemen. They seemed concerned about the bald tyres on the car, they wouldn't let me drive home.

"I carried Iset in my arms back to where we lived."

Mr Haines thought that was the end of the matter. But a few weeks later he was shocked to be arrested for wilful exposure of a child to risk of significant harm.

"I wasn't happy about this," he said. "I didn't expect anything to come from it."

This was not the case and Mr and Mrs Haines saw their children put on the child protection register for eight months, an experience which "mortified" Mrs Haines, who also lost her job as a teacher as a result.

Mr Haines was eventually convicted at Worcester Magistrates Court, but following an appeal at Crown Court the matter was thrown out.

"The judge said, 'how long was she left', I said 'five minutes' and he said 'is that supposed to be a crime?'," he added.

Now ten years later the couple have spoken out to back a call for clarity on the home alone issue.

This follows a case in the West Midlands where a mother left her six-year-old son unattended at home for 45 minutes while she had a driving lesson and is currently battling to get a caution for child neglect removed from her record.

"Six is a bit young," said Mrs Haines, a family law advocate who, with her husband, battled social services for a year following his arrest before the case was dropped.

"But she made the decision, she weighed up the risks in her house. She knows her son.

"This can happen to anybody.

"These people are just lurking around the corner of any house and they only need a tiny bit of information that's contrary to what they think should happen and they are there.

"When social services called I frog marched them out my house."

Social services carried out three case conferences on the family, which ended in the matter being voted out.

"I felt a mixture of emotions from outrage, to worry, to frantically wanting to protect my children," added Mrs Haines. "It was only reading the reports afterwards that there was this comment saying the younger three children were candidates for care and possibly adoption."

Now the five children, four of which were cathedral choristers, are all in education, the oldest two at university and the younger three at school.

Mr Haines added: "It seems we have been doing a good job because they are doing fine."

Currently the law states parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

A spokesperson for Worcestershire County Council said they would not comment on individual cases but added, "any decision to make a Child Protection Plan for a child (in 2004 children would be named on the Child Protection Register) is always taken on a multi-agency basis, taking account of all the facts and opinions of professionals and the family."

West Mercia Police said they have a duty to investigate all concerns regarding the care of children and vulnerable members of the community and added: "We do encourage anyone who has a complaint about the actions carried out as part of an investigation to contact us."