Court upholds conviction recorded against child with appalling criminal history

A child with an extensive criminal history and poor prospects of rehabilitation has failed in his application to have the recording of a conviction against him quashed.

The child was sentenced to youth detention for robbing a child at knife-point and stealing his bike.

The Court of Appeal, in a decision published yesterday, dismissed an appeal by a child, identified as ‘Lovett’, to lift a conviction imposed by Childrens Court Judge Leanne Claire after she found him guilty after a trial in Bundaberg on July 17 last year (2020) of one count of armed robbery in company.

The court was told Judge Clare found Lovett guilty of accosting another child on an unidentified street in the Wide Bay-Burnett region, brandishing a knife and then stealing the victim’s bicycle.

Lovett was sentenced to 15-months’ detention, with Judge Clare ordering a conviction be recorded against him and he be released after serving 70% of the term in custody.

Barrister Victoria Trafford-Walker, for Lovett, appealed the recording of a conviction against her client on the grounds it was “the result of an error (by Judge Clare) in the exercise of discretion because the sentence is manifestly excessive”.

Court of Appeal President Walter Sofronoff, in his written decision, disagreed, saying: “Her Honour Judge Clare … took into account (Lovett’s) poor criminal history and his poor prospects of rehabilitation as relevant factors (in sentencing). For these reasons, there was no error in her Honour’s exercise of discretion.”

The court, comprising Justices Sofronoff, Philip Morrison and Peter Davis, was told Lovett had a lengthy criminal history, appeared to have no insight into his recidivist criminal behaviour and had poor prospects of rehabilitation.

“(Lovett’s) past record of offending, including with the use of a weapon, his current lack of insight, and his use of dangerous drugs, as well as the absence of any indication that (he) will take it upon himself to change his behaviour, means that his prospects of rehabilitation generally are poor,” Justice Sofronoff said.

The court was told Lovett’s course of “consistent offending” included a myriad of crimes ranging from multiple counts of burglary, stealing, and trespass (once while armed), as well as obstructing police, common assault and wilful exposure between July 2017 and late 2019.

Justice Sofronoff said Lovett had been given the benefit on the non-recording of convictions on numerous occasions and a wide range of community-based orders before the imposition of detention orders prior to the armed robbery.

“In this (most recent) case, her Honour Judge Clare took into account the objective circumstances of this offence, which were serious,” he said.

“Her Honour also took into account (Lovett’s) poor criminal history, as well as his persistent disregard of supervisory orders.

“The recording of a conviction can, of course, stand in the way of rehabilitation because it may have to be disclosed to a prospective employer or a government authority.

“On the other hand, the fact that a person has committed a very serious offence is something that may be necessary or legitimate for an employer or a government authority to know. The community may be better served by such knowledge.

“When the prospects of rehabilitation are poor, as they are in this case, the risk that the recording of a conviction might prejudice future employment or career prospects diminishes and correspondingly, the balance turns in favour of recording of a conviction.

“I would refuse the appeal.”

Justices Morrison and Davis agreed.

Read the decision.

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