Is it a Crime to Leave a Child in a Car Unsupervised in New South Wales?

Sahar Adatia.

It was a theatrical scene that seemingly confirmed a shocking crime – but which instead quickly dwindled into an embarrassment.

On 30 December 2021, officers from Cleveland Police in the United Kingdom were called to a location after receiving emergency calls where they were forced to smash through a woman’s car window to rescue an abandoned baby left alone inside the vehicle.

However, what they weren’t expecting to determine was that the child was, in fact, simply a doll.

The realistic-looking figure resembling a newborn baby belonged to local Amy McQuillen’s daughter, Darci, who had been given the toy as a Christmas present.

Ms McQuillen, was left to explicate the misunderstood situation, which involved her 10-year-old youngster growing tired of carrying her doll around the stores when the pair had gone out shopping, which forced them to turn back and leave it in the car.

According to the 36-year-old healthcare assistant, when they arrived back at the car after completing their shopping, they were met with the astonishing discovery of two police officers smashing through the vehicle’s window.

Even more shocking was the crowd of people that had gathered to watch the scene unfold.

Officers Claim They Smashed Window Because They Were Investigating Reports of Child Neglect

When a startled Ms McQuillen approached the officers, they stated the reason for their shattering her vehicle’s window was because they were investigating following accounts of a child who had been abandoned.

To this, Ms McQuillen exclaimed, “I’ve got my daughter with me!

The distressed mother spoke to The Sun in the aftermath of the incident and expressed her confusion at the officers’ actions.

“They said a newborn baby had been left in the car so I said: ‘It’s a doll!’” Ms McQuillen said.

“I couldn’t believe it. I know the dolls are realistic but I didn’t think anything like this would ever happen.”

The mother explained they had gone to the shops so that her daughter could buy clothes and nappies for her doll, which cost £60.

When they returned to the car to drop off the doll, what she hadn’t realised, however, was that Darci had placed the figure in the booster seat and put the belt around it.

“Even if I had I wouldn’t have thought anything of it… she was just playing,” she said to the publication.”

The mother also stated that officers went on to disclose that a member of the public had called them advising they could see the child breathing when peering through the window.

“The officers later explained that someone had called them to say they had seen the baby moving, but then it had stopped moving and they couldn’t see it breathing.”

“I’ve no idea what that was all about as it’s a doll.”

“I do understand that the police have got to act when they get a call like this – as a mother I’d be angry if they didn’t.”

“But it was humiliating for me in front of lots of people, and I was left with a broken window and upset daughter.”

“The officers were apologetic once it was all cleared up and they went to check my daughter was OK.”

Ultimately, Cleveland Police agreed to foot the £264 bill to repair Ms McQuillen’s window.

A spokesperson also added that officers went about the investigation well-intentioned.

“On this occasion it was not what it seemed but it was reported with the best intentions,” the spokesperson said.

Officers would always rather establish a crime has not occurred than miss an opportunity to safeguard a child.”

Is it a Crime to Leave a Child in a Car Unsupervised in New South Wales?

Sure, the law certainly doesn’t apply to dolls.

But as far as leaving a minor unsupervised in a motor vehicle goes, here’s what you need to know:

This carries a maximum penalty of a $22,000 fine.

It is against the law to leave a child or a young person unsupervised in a motor vehicle.

If you are in NSW, the law on this is outlined in section 231 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

It is a crime in NSW if you leave a child or young person who is in your care in a motor vehicle without proper supervision for a period or in circumstances that the child or young person becomes or (is likely to become) emotionally distressed, or their health becomes (or is likely to become) permanently or temporarily impaired.Can you face jail time for this offence? Section 228 prescribed up to 2-years imprisonment or $22,000 fine, or both if you neglect to provide adequate and proper food, nursing, clothing, medical aid or lodging for a child or young person in your care.

Click here for more on the laws in NSW on car child restraints.

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