Judge notes 'cultural differences' as baby left in car

CULTURAL differences were taken into account in the sentencing of an Iraqi couple who left their seven-month-old baby sleeping in the car while they shopped in Toowoomba.

Toowoomba Magistrates Court heard the couple, the man aged 35 and his wife 29, had only been in Australia two months when they parked their car at K-mart Shopping Centre about 10.30am, July 27.

The couple, who are not named to protect the identity of the victim child, left the child asleep in a baby capsule in the back seat, left a rear window down one to 2cm, locked the car and went inside the shopping centre, police prosecutor Senior Constable Natalie Bugden said.

Other shoppers soon after saw the baby in the car alone and called 000.

Police smashed a rear window to retrieve the sleeping child from the car and found the couple about 30 to 40 minutes later, Snr Const Bugden told the court.

Through an interpreter, the woman told police her child usually slept for a few hours and that she was happy to let her sleep while she and her husband shopped for about an hour.

When warned of the potential dangers of leaving a child in the car alone, the mother had shown remorse, Snr Const. Bugden said.

Through a court appointed interpreter, the couple pleaded guilty to leaving a child under 12 unattended.

Their solicitor Phil Stainton told the court his clients came from Northern Iraq which had been subject to war and terrorism for many years and that there was fighting at present just kilometres from their home.

"Safety in their eyes is very different from that of an Australian citizen," Mr Stainton submitted.

The child's father was funded by the Iraqi Government to complete his masters degree at university here and the couple had been ignorant to our laws, he said.

His client instructed that the child had been in a deep sleep and that the mother hadn't wanted to wake her, believing she would be safe, but she now realised they had made a big mistake, he said.

Magistrate Damian Carroll took all matters into account but said the incident was serious.

"In my view, a parent's obligation to care for their child transcends all international boundaries," he said.

Noting they had no previous criminal history, Mr Carroll fined each defendant $500 with no convictions recorded.

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