OUR COURTS: Legal toll for failing to supervise children can be heavy
AUSTRALIA experienced a 30 per cent increase in drowning deaths of children under the age of five last year, according to the Royal Life Saving Society’s annual drowning report.
Of the 271 deaths due to drowning, 26 were of preschool age.
Most of these young children drowned around the home and most commonly in swimming pools.
The Royal Life Saving Society’s report states that in all cases where a child under the age of five drowned, supervision from an adult was either intermittent or lacking altogether.
Under the Queensland Criminal Code, a person who has lawful care of a child under the age of 12 and leaves the child for an unreasonable time without providing reasonable supervision and care commits a misdemeanour and, if found guilty, faces a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.
Parents and carers of children must be aware supervision of a child is not only a parental responsibility but also a legal responsibility and that failing to do so can have devastating consequences.
Young children must be actively supervised by an adult at all times in and around water and it is vital pools are properly fenced and secured at all times.
The criminal law regarding reasonable supervision of a child can also be applied in a situation where a parent leaves a child in a motor vehicle for an unreasonable amount of time.
For instance, it may be held unreasonable by the court for a parent to leave a small child in a car and in the sun while the parent is paying for fuel.
Parents need to be mindful when leaving a child, especially a young child, if the time is reasonable given the particular circumstances.
Generally, this means applying common sense but also means considering the legal obligations all parents have when caring for children and the consequences that can result if adequate supervision is not provided.