A MOTHER who left her four-year-old child alone in her car for an hour at a Victorian shopping centre has avoided conviction in court.
The woman in her 30s – a South Korean national living near Swan Hill – applied for a diversion sentence in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
The woman parked in the Lansell Square carpark at 10.30am on October 4 last year, a day with a maximum temperature of 25 degrees.
She took her infant child inside, but left the four-year-old in the car with the doors locked and the windows partially opened.
A witness saw the child in the car and contacted police, who arrived 10 minutes later. The woman did not arrive back at the car until 11.30am despite being paged through the Lansell Square complex.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommended that charges be laid against the woman.
The court heard the child was wearing a jacket when police arrived and “was old enough to remove it”, indicating the child was not suffering any heat-related issues.
The woman’s husband had suffered a medical emergency a few days earlier and was in intensive care at Bendigo Health. She had travelled to Lansell Square to buy him a change of clothes.
The woman, who is not yet an Australian citizen despite marrying an Australian man, feared that a criminal conviction would affect her citizenship application.
She also has ambitions to teach in Australia.
The court’s judicial registrar recommended that diversion be rejected.
Prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Alan Walker said the offence of leaving a young child unattended in a car was increasingly prevalent in Victoria, and people needed to adhere to the public health message.
Magistrate Patrick Southey said it was a “problem” and people were still not getting the message.
“It’s a serious offence. I’m quite satisfied, from what I see and hear in the community, that this is quite prevalent,” he said.
“The facts trouble me. She went shopping for an hour. She may well have been stressed and distracted, but to leave a child in the car for an hour is far longer than acceptable.
“It’s a complete dereliction of her duties as a mother.”
Mr Southey doubted whether the matter would affect the woman’s attempts to gain citizenship.
She avoided conviction and was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond. She must also pay $500 to the court fund.