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Although not quite the proverbial ass, the state of the law in relation to leaving teens unattended overnight is a very strange beast indeed. In fact the law simply does not specify an age at which a teen can be left unattended at all. This is a very curious omission given the consequences to parents if they get it wrong. It does seem pretty safe to assume that 16 is probably the ’magic age’. If someone of this age can fight and die for his country, have sexual intercourse or get married, he can surely be left unattended overnight, can’t he? On the other hand, it would be unwise, if not highly foolhardy, to leave a 13 year old home alone, overnight. The more problematic ages are 14 and 15. The law is written in objective terms. Parents must not leave children alone “in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health”. The problem with that objective formula is that it depends on a subjective assessment of the child in question. Almost every parent, at some stage or another, has said of their teenager “I didn’t think HE would do that!” Mistakes are always analysed in objective terms however. That’s the problem. So the message to parents of 14 and 15 year olds is that it is better to be safe than sorry. Better to be castigated by the teen for treating him like a baby, rather than be reprimanded by the Judge for leaving your teen home alone.


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