An Adelaide couple who made a panicked attempt to smuggle their two-year-old son to Malaysia while he was under state care have been spared jail.
The 28-year-old man and 25-year-old woman, whose names are suppressed, faced up to 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated counts of failing to comply with a care and protection order, and sending or taking a child out of jurisdiction.
The South Australian District Court has heard the boy was under state guardianship but lived with his grandparents when he was taken to Malaysia in August 2014.
Both parents were arrested in Penang and spent about two months in prison before authorities surrendered them back to SA.
Judge Rauf Soulio on Friday placed the pair on good behaviour bonds, saying they had been driven to distress at the prospect of losing their son.
“The plan to remove your child and go to Malaysia was a very poorly-conceived plan executed at a time when you were in a state of panic,” he said.
He jailed the couple for three months each but suspended their sentences upon them entering into the bonds.
The court heard Families SA had placed the couple’s son on a 12 month care and protection order after allegations were made by another of the father’s children.
Judge Soulio said it later became clear the couple had done nothing wrong, despite Families SA acting in what they thought to be the child’s best interests.
But he chastised the pair for their response to the investigation, saying the proper course of action was to simply challenge the order in court.
“It would not have carried the trauma that you both have experienced,” he said.
The child’s grandfather, who was charged with aiding and abetting the pair, also received a suspended prison sentence.
Judge Soulio said the 66-year-old had acted out of misguided loyalty towards his son when he allowed the couple to take the child from his home.