Are You Breaking The Law By Leaving Your Children Home Alone?
Have you ever had the thought to just leave your kids at home for a short moment while you duck out to do something? Maybe it’s a quick dash to the supermarket while they happily watch a movie at home or perhaps you need to do school pick up and have a sickie in bed.
Whatever the case may be, there will come a time when you will question whether or not your children are old enough to be left alone at home.
While every family and case is different, please take note that if you live in Queensland and you leave a child under the age of 12 home alone, you are in fact breaking the law! I know! Who knew?!
The Queensland Criminal Code, section 364a, under the title “Leaving a child under 12 unattended,” stipulates “that a person who, having the lawful care of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time, commits a misdemeanour.”
If found guilty of breaking this law, the punishment carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment. Three years??! Seriously- is everyone in Queensland aware of this law?
Other states and territories across Australia don’t expressly state an age that is appropriate to leave your child alone, but they do clearly say that parents are expected to provide their children with adequate safety and supervision at all times.
So what is considered adequate safety you may ask? Well short of putting them in a bubble wrapped room the court will consider things like:
• The age of the child
• How long they are left alone
• How often they have stayed by themselves
• And what time of day or night it is.
What about leaving them with their older sibling? Surely that’s ok? The test of reasonableness is still applied when leaving your child with an older sibling. If that child is under eighteen, depending on the supervisor’s maturity levels and capacity to care, a parent can still be found to be negligent for leaving them with an ill-equipped carer.
Surely though it’s fine to duck out to the shops and pick up some milk (if you’re not in QLD that is)? Well that all depends on how old the child is- it may be acceptable for an 11 year old but completely irresponsible and dangerous if it’s a toddler.
Another no-no is popping your child in an UBER to get them to school on time. Although a new company in Sydney called Stretch Ride is launching a child friendly taxi service for this reason alone, until that is up and running an UBER driver will not transport any child under the age of eighteen unless they are supervised by an adult.
Have you left your children home alone yet? How old were they and how long were you gone for?