A Highbridge mother who went on the run with her three-year-old son has been told she “owes her liberty” to the boy’s father after he dropped the case against her.

Rebecca Minnock, 35, fled from her Highbridge home with Ethan on 27th May, the same day that a judge ruled the boy should live with his father, Roger Williams.

She handed herself in on 12th June after a high-profile publicity campaign to trace her.

The judge said Mr Williams had dropped the case to avoid a continued “glare of publicity” around Ethan.

Mr Williams, who lives in Burnham, had begun committal proceedings after Ms Minnock ignored two court orders concerning their son.

But his barrister, Rupert Chapman, told the court the father now wanted to withdraw the application for committal.

Judge Stephen Wildblood QC said he would respect Mr Williams’ wishes but warned Ms Minnock that, had she been found guilty of contempt, he would have sentenced her to at least 28 days in prison.

He said: “Parents who flout court orders are the scourge of the system. It is only the mercy of the father that spares this mother.”

Rather than fleeing, Miss Minnock should have attended the custody hearing on 27 May to argue her case, the judge said, and she could have sought permission to appeal against the ruling.

Her actions had been “manipulative, attention seeking and truculent” and had caused “immense distress to many” as well as wasting “a large amount of public money”.

Mr Williams now wanted to “end the public displays of the difficulties that affect Ethan’s upbringing”, the judge said.

“She owes her liberty to him. She must never fail to comply with court orders again.”

Mr Williams’ lawyer said there had been a long history of breaches of court orders by Miss Minnock but added: “In view of the fact Ethan has been returned home to his care, and that he is happy and settled at home and contact has been started, my client wishes to draw a line under the previous breaches.”

Ms Minnock told the court she had only had one hour of supervised contact with Ethan, which took place on Tuesday. She added: “My big concern at the moment is, I got to see Ethan yesterday, if I am going to go to prison what emotional damage is that going to do on Ethan?”

While she was in hiding her mother, Louise, 52, and mother’s partner, Andrew Butt, 56, were jailed for withholding information about Ethan’s disappearance – both have since been released.

Before going on the run, Miss Minnock had fought a two-year custody battle. In February, a district judge found she had fabricated allegations against her former partner in order to “frustrate contact” between him and Ethan. On 27th May, it was ruled the boy should live with his father.