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Judge sets aside sentence of first-time child offender

A judge has set aside a magistrate’s decision to sentence a 13-year-old North Queensland girl for stealing food and breaking into a pizza shop rather than referring the case for restorative justice.

Queensland’s Childrens Court President Judge Deborah Richards on Friday 13 November allowed an appeal, by a girl identified as ‘WAL’, against a magistrate’s decision to sentence her rather than make an immediate referral of the matter for restorative justice in accordance with section 163 and 164 of the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld).

Judge Richards, in a decision delivered in Brisbane, said that on 5 August first-time offender WAL was sentenced by a magistrate in relation to break, enter and stealing offences in Townsville.

“The stealing involved the child stealing food and drink from a service station,” Judge Richards said. “On 7 March she was found with a pair of multigrips at 2am in the morning and on 29 March she was in a group of children that broke into a Domino’s store at Aitkenvale…”

The court was told that WAL was living with her mother at the time of the offences, had no criminal history and was not attending school, although attempts were being made to enrol her in further schooling.

It was also revealed there was no evidence before the court making it clear whether WAL entered the Domino’s store at the time of the break-in or remained outside while co-offenders entered the premises.

“Submissions were made … that she was highly embarrassed as a result of having to appear in court,” Judge Richards said. “She was raised by her mother with limited contact with her father. Since the offending she has been house bound and she has removed herself from her co offenders.”

Judge Richards noted that the prosecution did concede, in its appeal submissions, that the magistrate did not have regard to Section 162 of the Youth Justice Act at the time of sentencing.

“In this case the child was very young, 13 years of age, she had no criminal history and had not been before the court previously,” Judge Richards said. “In relation to the more serious offence of breaking into the Domino’s Pizza establishment (it) is unclear whether she actually entered the establishment or was merely a party to the offence.

“In those circumstances, given the fact that her mother had effectively imposed a curfew on her since the offending and she was responding to that well, there was no reason (for the magistrate) not to refer the matter to restorative justice…

“The sentence is set aside and in lieu of sentencing the child the court orders the Chief Executive to refer the offence for a restorative justice process.”

Read the full decision.

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