In 2015 Australia has seen a 30 per cent increase in drowning deaths of children under the age of five 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 drown 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 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 3 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 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 and especially younger children for any amount of time, if the time is reasonable and adequate given the particular circumstances. Generally this means applying common sense but also considering the legal obligations all parents have when caring for children and the consequences that can result if adequate supervision is not provided.