You could be breaking the law.

Rules about leaving your child under 12 unattended.

by Kelsey Leahy

It is very common for parents to allow their young children to walk or ride to school alone, however, what most parents are unaware of, is that leaving your child unsupervised may constitute a criminal offence.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash Under the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) a person can face up to 3 years imprisonment if a person who has the lawful care or charge 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.It is important to note that the child does not have to be injured or suffer neglect during this time for the person to be charged.

So what is unreasonable time?

Unreasonable time depends heavily on all of the relevant circumstances in each case. It will be for a Magistrate to determine whether the time was unreasonable. The considerations for the Court may include things such as:

  • The age and maturity of the child;
  • The distance the child is travelling;
  • Whether the child has been taught the particular route – i.e. if an adult has walked the child through the route for a period of time; and
  • The timing – i.e. how long it takes to get to school and how long the child will be unsupervised at school.

From the above, there is no blanket rule that children under 12 cannot walk or ride to school alone.

So what about leaving children under 12 alone in other instances?

This law is not strictly relevant to children walking or riding to school. A person could be charged under this section of the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) for any instance of leaving a child under 12 unattended; such as leaving children in the car while you go shopping, or leaving children home alone whilst you are out.

If you have been charged with this offence, it is important you seek legal advice immediately. Our firm is able to provide advice about your prospects of successfully fighting the charge and appear at Court on your behalf.