British parents were arrested on suspicion of child cruelty and neglect after their 11-year-old boy tipped the scales at 210 pounds (95 kilograms).
Police in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, decided to step in after doctors sounded the alarm about the boy’s welfare following two visits to the doctor earlier this year. They said intervention at this level was "very rare," and was only initiated when other efforts to protect the child’s welfare had proved unsuccessful.
The Sun reported that the boy, who stands at 5ft 1in, has a body mass index (BMI) of 41.8. That is higher than what is classified as obese for an average adult male and is “very overweight” for a boy his age, according to Britain’s National Health Service.
The shape of the tyke was cause for concern for teachers and doctors, leading to intervention by social services and ultimately police.
The parents were arrested in March on suspicion of child neglect and cruelty under section 1 of the Children's Act 1933. The father, 49, and the mother, 44, were later released on bail, a police spokeswoman said.
The family has since been reunited, and earlier this week, in a letter of intent, the couple agreed to whip their son into shape.
“He’s always been big,” the father told The Sun. “He was born with shovels for hands and spades for feet. Our son’s favorite snack is steamed broccoli — and he’s still big."
John Hemming, chairman of Justice for Families, told RT that the boy’s mother’s fears are most likely justified, as situations like these are heavily weighted against families.
“Normally, one would assume that they’ve got no hope whatsoever, because most of the time, that’s what happens when you look at the statistics. So if there’s an application for a care order, an interim care order, that goes through over 90 percent of the time.”
He chalks it up to British law, which has a habit of reacting “punitively” when it comes to family issues, even if the outcomes aren’t improved.
“It isn’t necessarily the case that you should never use the criminal law for this, but I wonder, sometimes, if we’re too quick to resort to it,” Hemmings said.
“There have been proposals, recently, for instance, to penalize parents in Wales if their children are ill more than 15 percent of the time. All of this just gets more and more punitive, and I don’t think it actually achieves much for the children.”