A Queensland Childrens Court judge has overturned a detention order for a 15-year-old Indigenous child who has “suffered a considerable history of trauma and neglect” in his short life.
Childrens Court Judge John Allen QC, in a decision published on Friday, substituted a six-week detention order handed to the child – identifiable only as MSR – by a Townsville Childrens Court Magistrate on 1 July for two offences of break, enter and steal.
The court was told the boy’s offending involved breaking into two businesses in the early hours of 12 June 2020, when he stole and consumed a can of lemonade and then stole bottles of liquor, beer and cigarettes worth an estimated $630.
Judge Allen, in his seven-page decision, painted a bleak and heartbreaking picture of the boy’s early life since being placed into care at the age of four months.
“The applicant child was 15 years of age at the time of the offences and sentence,” Judge Allen said. “He is an Indigenous child who has, throughout his lifetime, suffered a considerable history of trauma and neglect.
“He has been in the care of Child Safety since he was four months old and reported to be discovered alone in a dry riverbank.
“His subsequent history and care is one of extreme family dysfunction with multiple placements with different kinship and community carers between Mornington Island, Mount Isa and Townsville.”
In granting MSR’s appeal for a review of sentence, Judge Allen noted the child had spent 19 days in custody while on remand between 12 June and 1 July 2020.
The court was told MSR had a relevant criminal history at the time of sentencing and had been placed on various community-based orders such as community service, restorative justice and probation.
“When I take into account the objective seriousness of the offences themselves, the antecedents of the child, the 19 days spent in detention prior to sentence…I am not satisfied…that no other sentence but detention is appropriate,” Judge Allen said.
“Considering the matter afresh on its merits, I conclude that an appropriate sentencing order…is one of 12 months’ probation.”