Many would argue that it all depends on where you leave your child, how old the child is and how long you leave the child unattended. Let’s consider a few scenarios.
Can you leave your sleeping baby in the car while you run into the service station to pay for your fuel?
Can you leave your ten-year-old at home while you quickly go to the shop to buy bread and milk?
Amongst your friends, you will soon realize that there is no consensus on what the “right” age is. Some may not leave their child alone at home till they are 14; others might argue that they don’t want to wake the toddler just to pay for fuel. If we can’t agree on a “right" age, maybe we should ask if there is a legal age that you may leave your child unattended?
What does the law say?
Section 364A of the Criminal Code 1899 states:
At first glance, it seems then that the legal age in Queensland is 12. Does this mean that you can never leave a child younger than 12 unattended? Apparently not, it seems to depend on what is an unreasonable time.
Not really. If you look at section 364A(2), it simply says: whether the time is unreasonable depends on all the relevant circumstances.
offense means that if you are charged with leaving your child unattended, the Court will consider all the circumstances to decide if you left your child unattended for an unreasonable time.
It is never easy to have a complete list of circumstances that will be relevant to a particular situation, but the following will certainly be relevant in most situations.
If you offense of this offence, you can be sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. The Court will usually only impose imprisonment if the child suffered severe or permanent injuries, or in the event of death, but it remains a serious offence.
So next time you consider leaving your child unattended, consider all the circumstances and the risks - the risks to your child, and also the risk of you being charged with a criminal offence!