Won’t somebody please think of the children!

Most of us have memories of walking to school. It was a small step towards independence on the long journey toward becoming an adult. We had to prove to our parents that we were capable of crossing the street properly, that we knew what to do in the event of stranger danger, and that we could be trusted to actually go to school. Along the way in early spring, many of us dodged swooping magpies, and yet we survived having grown from the experience. That experience is denied to today’s children.

It may come as a surprise to many, but in Queensland children are now banned from walking to school unaccompanied. Section 364a of Queensland’s criminal code states under the title “Leaving a child under 12 unattended”:

  1. A person who, having the lawful care or charge of achild under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and careof the child during that time commits a misdemeanour. Maximum penalty – 3 years’ imprisonment.
  2. Whether the time is unreasonable depends on all the relevant circumstances.

The Queensland Police Service issued a warning to parents that, “Kids under 12 cannot walk or ride to school alone, there must be some level of supervision. Blatant disregard for this responsibility has already led to criminal charges against a parent in Miles (a small town west of Toowoomba) others could easily face prosecution.”

The Police Officer in Charge of Miles Police seems to have overstated how the law actually is applied, because the Queensland Police Service issued the below statement clarifying the circumstances of the case after the original notice was reported in the media. In practice the court would determine whether the period of time the child spent unsupervised was unreasonable. It’s unlikely that the court would consider a child walking 10 minutes on a route they are familiar to be unreasonable. However, this example demonstrates how vague laws can be overzealously enforced by the police service and one can never be sure how the courts will interpret a law. As LibertyWorks has asked in the past, “What’s reasonable?” Who should decide what’s reasonable? Most people would believe it’s a child’s parent who should decide what’s reasonable.

Decisions about child rearing should be left to parents. What is reasonable for one child or circumstance might be unreasonable for another. Parent’s are the best judge of what’s right for their children and the state hardly has a stellar record of raising children in its care. We all have different values and their is no one universal right way to raise a child. Far too often parental authority is being undermined by the state and the school system. Whether it be what lunch parents provide their children or the safe schools indoctrination program, it all adds up to an unwelcome intrusion on the rights of parents.

It is absolutely essential that the Queensland government reform the criminal code removing any risk that responsible parents who allow their children to walk to school unsupervised are not harassed by the police. The state cannot replace the family. The family is the bedrock of our society. For the last 40 years the state has continuously undermined the family unit and many would agree that the results have been disastrous. Laws such as this may seem minor, but they represent the continued intrusion by the state into family life.

Justin Campbell is the general manager of LibertyWorks Inc

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14 Comments on "Won’t somebody please think of the children!"

  1. So have the parents of Qld been bitterly repressed by implementation of this Act over the last decade since its introduction? Or is it an overreaction to otherwise sound law making?. Have you read the evidence provided by the minister in his second reading speech for the reasoning behind its introduction? A search of the Qld courts website shows four cases where this section was applied. read the facts on some of those. Hardly the floodgate of jackbooted governmental intervention you article implies.

    • You make a good argument for repealing an unnecessary law.

    • Did you read any of the cases? Almost all of them have been about children left locked in cars by parents or left for extended periods locked inside homes, some of them in terrible conditions. I’ll be right there by your side if you can show me some cases where someone has been prosecuted ,where the parent hasn’t unreasonably put their child in danger. Just because a criminal act is rare doesn’t mean it should not be a crime. Terrorism is incredibly rare but noone is arguing agaist anti terror laws on the basis that it doesn’t happen very often.

    • Lots of people oppose anti terror laws.
      The only reason anti terror laws exist is so that law enforcement don’t have to follow due process – it allows lazy policing. That’s fine while they’re only going after terrorists but the definition of terrorism is so broad it can be applied to almost anything.

      Conspiracy to commit murder is exactly the same crime as planning a terror attack, except it requires a higher burden of proof.

    • Gary, I think I have made my point in a clumsy way. The point I was making (poorly) was that any argument against terrorism laws isn’t generally about how rare the offences are.

  2. Typical Australia. OVER regulated, UNDER governed!

  3. Stupidity by regulation

  4. It’s really, really sad. When I think of the freedom of movement I had, and the responsibility, by the time I was 12.

  5. I can understand with the amount of nut jobs ready willing and able to nab a child anywhere, anytime….. to which i hate being the helicopter parent but there are a shit load of pedos walking free…
    To be honest I think there is a fair reason for this regulation and even though I hate rules but the nuts are running the asylum and letting too much sick stuff slide..

    • You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers Juan. Mark Twain said, “If you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed, and if you do read the newspapers you are misinformed.” They haven’t got any better since then…

    • My friends child got nabbed mate. .. should i go on?

  6. Granted that police should get more direction from the courts as to what is “reasonable” or not, the argument that parents should decide is flawed.

    If a parent thinks it “reasonable” for their 9 year old child to be on the streets at 3 am on a school night, shall they be the final arbiter? The law is fine, but apparently some police require more training as to it’s interpretation.

  7. An interesting story that is relevant to this one. Years ago, we lived near Bankstown Airport, and had the occasional International Student Pilot boarding at our place. One such stud was Sashi, a young Indonesian bloke, who boarded with us in one room – and his parents in another! Long story short, his parents were there to ensure he studied, and didn’t get into trouble. He got killed in a car accident down the road from our home, while a bunch of students were driving a young female student back from a visit to hospital for a fall. Sashi’s Dad was a bureaucrat of some sort, must have had a bit of money, and didn’t like not being in control. This was the result. The moral of the story? Let your kids develop self-reliance and good judgement. How do they develop good judgement? From the experience of bad judgement, of course. Better they start early, than leave it too late, because the bigger they are, the harder they fall….

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