A MOTHER of five who left two sons aged eight and seven locked inside the family's Toowoomba home alone for at least 90 minutes has been handed a jail sentence.
The woman, 28, and her partner, 30, who cannot be named so as to protect the identity of their children, each pleaded guilty to a charge of "leaving a child under 12 years for an unreasonable time without making provision for supervision and care of the child".
The children's father also pleaded guilty to seven unrelated drug and explosives offences and to breaching the probation order he was on at the time.
He was granted bail to be sentenced in the same court next month.
Ironically, the mother and father took turns watching over their three younger children in the court foyer while the other appeared separately before the court.
Police prosecutor Alistair Windsor told the court a Department of Child Safety officer had attended the family's Rockville residence for a home visit at 11am, January 4, to find the house locked but the two boys inside.
Through the locked door the boys told her their parents had taken their three younger siblings to an appointment.
The Child Safety officer called the couple's phone but got no answer so she then called the Child Protection Investigation Unit and police arrived at the house about noon.
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After checking with neighbours, police officers were about to force their way into the house about 12.20pm when the children's parents arrived home.
Senior Constable Windsor said the woman told police she was unaware it was offence to leave the children locked in the house and at the time hadn't thought they had done anything wrong.
The couple's solicitor Phil Stainton told the court his clients had taken their younger children to have their vaccination shots.
His clients' instructed that the house was locked from the outside when they left but the boys could have unlocked the door from the inside at any time.
The boys had been told by their parents not to open the door to strangers.
Mr Stainton said the children remained in the care of their parents but with further involvement of the Department of Child Safety.
The children's mother now fully understood she had done wrong, he submitted.
Mr Stainton said the children's father had some mental health issues which also made things difficult at times for the children's mother on the home front but she tried to do her best.
The woman had no previous offences of anything of a similar nature, he told the court.
An obviously unimpressed Magistrate Bruce Schemioneck told the woman the incident was "very, very serious" and warned of the potential tragedy should either of the boys have been playing with matches inside the home.
Mr Schemioneck sentenced the woman to six months in jail but suspended the term immediately for two years.
Her partner will appear back in the same court for sentence on February 12.
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