A mother was spared jail after leaving her three young children in a 40oC car for 45 minutes.

The children, aged between two and eight, sounded the horn to attract a member of the public who came to their rescue.

Kelly Marie Langham, 26, of Carlisle, admitted three counts of neglect and possession of amphetamines, claiming that she thought she would only be gone for a few minutes.

Langham received a one year community order, under the supervision of Cumbria Action Social Support, which is designed to help her develop better parenting skills, along with a six month drug treatment order.

Sally Metcalfe Gibson, Chairman of the bench at Carlisle Magistrates' Court, also ordered Langham pay costs of £50.

Gibson said: "This was a serious offence but you are a person of good character with no previous convictions.

"You have had significant problems coping with the absence of your partner, three young children to care for, the lack of secure housing and your drug use."

Police were called by a member of the public who was alerted to the scene when the children started sounding the car horn.

Detective Inspector Kim Fulton said in a statement: "This case sends out a stark reminder that it can get extremely hot inside a vehicle at this time of year. Kelly Langham made a serious error of judgment which has today resulted in her appearing in court today."

The car windows had been left slightly open, but as Langham became delayed in a queue at the pawnbrokers, the temperature began to rise.

Fulton added: "Even with the windows slightly wound down the temperature in her vehicle reached 40 degrees.

"This and the fact that she left her children unattended for 45 minutes placed them at risk of serious harm. Thankfully the actions of a member of the public avoided a more tragic ending to this story."

Police said the children were traumatised by the incident but did not require hospital treatment.