Section 42, 43, 43A, 44 Crimes Act | Child Neglect


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If you are the parent or carer of a child, you have a legal duty to care for your child properly, provide them with the ‘necessities of life,’ and not inflict harm upon them.

Should you fail to uphold these duties, you could face criminal charges under the law for ‘child neglect.’

‘Child neglect’ offences are contained in sections 42, 43, 43A and 44 of the Act, which impose different penalties depending on the seriousness of the offence.

If you have been charged with a child neglect charge, our team of experienced criminal lawyers can work with you to fight the charges so that you can move on with your life as quickly as possible.

It is also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the law so that you develop a greater understanding of how the charges may affect you.

Each of the sections in relation to ‘child neglect’ is discussed below:

Section 42 Crimes Act 1900 | Injuries to Child at Time of Birth

Perhaps the most serious ‘child neglect’ offence; section 42 of the Crimes Act deals with situations where you inflict injuries upon a child either before, during or after the birth of a child.

Examples include attempts to procure an abortion illegally by inflicting injury upon an unborn child.

You may also be charged under this section where you attempt to injure a child soon after its birth. It will not matter whether or not the child has been fully born or not.

If you are found guilty under section 42, you could face a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.

Section 43 Crimes Act 1900 | Abandoning or exposing a child under 7 years

Abandoning young children is considered to be a serious offence, particularly where it endangers their life.

Under section 43 of the Crimes Act, it is an offence to deliberately abandon a child under the age of 7 years where it endangers their life or poses a risk of serious injury to the child.

However, you may escape charges under this section if you can show to the court that you had a ‘reasonable excuse’ for abandoning your child.

A ‘reasonable excuse’ may include cases where you were forced to abandon your child to prevent serious injury or death to another person (necessity).

If you are found guilty under this section, you could face a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

Section 43A Crimes Act 1900 | Failure of Persons with Parental Responsibility to Care for Child

If you are either the parent or legal guardian or carer of a child, you have special legal duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities in relation to your child.

A child is anyone under the age of 16.

The law says that if you have a child under the age of 16, you are obliged to provide them with the ‘necessities of life.’

‘Necessities of life’ refer to financial support, food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education.

Should you fail to do so, and if your failure to do so endangers the child’s life or poses a risk of serious injury to them, you could face a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

Section 44 Crimes Act 1900 | Failure of persons to provide necessities of life

Section 44 is very similar to section 43A, however it deals broadly with persons ‘who are under a legal duty to provide another person with the necessities of life’ and fail to do so.

This section is not limited to the parent-child relationship and therefore creates a similar offence for others who have a duty to care for persons.

A common example is the carer of someone who suffers from a serious disability – in these cases, the carer has a legal duty to provide them with financial support, food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education.

Where they fail to uphold these duties, they could face a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

Although the maximum penalties prescribed by the law are quite harsh, it’s important to remember that they will only apply in the most serious cases.

In many cases, with the help of a highly experienced legal team, you can avoid these harsh maximum penalties.

However, because these charges may also result in charges under child protection laws, which can potentially result in the removal of your children from your care, it’s important that you seek assistance from an expert criminal lawyer who you can trust to protect your reputation and family.

The Legislation

Sections 42, 43, 43A and 44 of the Crimes Act 1900 deal with ‘child neglect’ offences and read as follows:

42 Injuries to child at time of birth

Whosoever, during or after the delivery of a child, intentionally or recklessly inflicts on such child, whether then wholly born or not, any grievous bodily harm, shall be liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.

43 Abandoning or exposing a child under 7 years

A person who, without reasonable excuse, intentionally abandons or exposes a child under 7 years of age is guilty of an offence if it causes a danger of death or of serious injury to the child.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 5 years.

43A Failure of persons with parental responsibility to care for child

(1) In this section:”child” means a child under 16 years of age.”parental responsibility”means the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority in respect of a child that, by law, parents have in relation to their children.

(2) A person:

(a) who has parental responsibility for a child, and

(b) who, without reasonable excuse, intentionally or recklessly fails to provide the child with the necessities of life,

is guilty of an offence if the failure causes a danger of death or of serious injury to the child.

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 5 years.

44 Failure of persons to provide necessities of life

(1) A person:

(a) who is under a legal duty to provide another person with the necessities of life, and

(b) who, without reasonable excuse, intentionally or recklessly fails to provide that person with the necessities of life,

is guilty of an offence if the failure causes a danger of death or causes serious injury, or the likelihood of serious injury, to that person. 

Maximum penalty: Imprisonment for 5 years.

(2) A person cannot be found guilty of both an offence against section 43A and an offence against this section in respect of the same act or omission.

Why Sydney Criminal Lawyers?

At Sydney Criminal Lawyers, we understand how important your children are to you.

Our dedicated advocates are well-versed in criminal law and can advise you of the steps to take when it comes to fighting the charges in court.

We can help you obtain expert evidence to support your case and will work with you to develop a strong case to ensure that your liberty is best protected.

Sometimes, child neglect allegations may be made by former spouses or family members in an attempt to gain custody of the child in question.

In these cases, we can work hard to examine all the evidence to prove that you did not commit the offence and push to have the charges dropped on this basis.

Alternatively, we can also help you identify any defences or ‘reasonable excuses’ for your conduct. When raised successfully, these will result in a verdict of ‘not guilty.’

Should you wish to accept the charges against you, our criminal law specialists will fight hard to secure the most lenient penalty possible so that you can get on with your life without the charges hanging over your head.

We can help you achieve an outstanding result in your case by preparing sentencing submissions which highlight any mitigating factors that could assist your case.

We can also push to have matters heard in a lower court, where the maximum penalties are much lower.

When it comes to protecting you and your family, it’s important to get the right legal team on your side.

Call us today on (02) 9261 8881 and book a FREE first conference to discuss your ‘child neglect’ matter with us today.