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Youth’s 203-day detention sentence ‘manifestly excessive’

A 15-year-old boy sentenced to more than six-months’ detention by a magistrate for his role in a crime spree involving several joyrides in stolen cars has had the term scrapped by a higher court.

Childrens Court of Queensland President Judge Deborah Richards, in a recently published decision, set aside a 203-day detention order handed to the boy – identifiable only as ‘JRE’ – after pleading guilty in the Dalby Childrens Court on 1 April to five counts of unlawful use of a motor vehicle, one attempted unlawful use of a car, drug possession and counts of break, enter and steal.

Judge Richards, in her five-page written decision, said prior to being sentenced JRE had spent 203-days in pre-sentence custody, but that the magistrate erred as a matter of law by sentencing the child to the term and declaring it as ‘time served’.

“Whilst the magistrate was entitled to, and should have taken into account the fact that he spent 203-days in custody prior to sentence, it was not appropriate…to sentence him to 203-days in custody,” Judge Richards said. “Nor is it possible to declare the 203-days as time served.”

As part of her reasons, Judge Richards documented the string of offences committed by the child, including:

  • 27 June 2019 – the child and four other offenders broke into a Target Country department store by throwing objects as glass doors and windows. Once inside they stole mobile phones, two Xbox game consoles and money.
  • 9 July 2019 – entered home and stole a wallet and keys a Volkswagen, then drove off and stole petrol from a nearby fuel station.
  • 19 July 2019 – was a passenger in a stolen Volkswagen during a ‘police chase’ at Chinchilla.
  • 8 November 2019 – was a passenger in a stolen Holden Commodore driven at high speed along the Balonne Highway.
  • 28 December 2019 – was a passenger in a stolen Subaru later intercepted by police.
  • 10 January 2020 – attempted to steal a Toyota Hilux, but fled when the owner awoke as the youth and his friends tried to break into it.

Judge Richards, who sentenced the teenager to 12 months’ probation, said: “The offending itself was serious, but the child had spent a considerable period of time in detention.”

“The time in detention was time that the magistrate could and should have considered in arriving at the appropriate sentence.

“(Even) the Crown has conceded that the sentence is manifestly excessive and submits that in all the circumstances a term of probation was appropriate. I agree with that proposition.”

The full decision is available online.

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