Judge removes probation order for girl, 13, who stole car wrecked in joyride

Queensland’s chief Childrens Court judge has removed a probation supervision order handed to a 13-year-old Townsville girl who stole a car, drove it dangerously and was later a passenger with five other young people when it crashed into a pole and rolled. 

Queensland Childrens Court President Judge Deborah Richards, in a decision handed down in Brisbane yesterday (18 May), granted an application to review the three-month probation and restorative justice order imposed on the young teen after being convicted in February (2021) of entering a house at night with intent to commit an indictable offence and unlawful and licensed driving of a vehicle. 

The court was told the 13-year-old girl, identifiable only by the pseudonym Matilda, entered a Townsville home between midnight and 5.15am on January 30 (2021) and stole a handbag containing keys to a Toyota Prada vehicle. 

Judge Richards, in her four-page written decision, said: “The (Toyota) vehicle was later sighted being driven dangerously through Townsville until, at 7.13am, the driver lost control of the vehicle and mounted the curb onto the footpath hitting a pole and causing the vehicle to roll.’’ 

“There were six occupants in the vehicle and this child (Matilda) was one of them. She was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the impact although she had driven the car previously.  

“Whilst in the car with detectives, she and her friend were laughing about the car rolling and acting generally in a very immature fashion.’’ 

Judge Richards noted that in sentencing the child to three month’s supervised probation and restorative justice process orders, the presiding magistrate highlighted the fact there “needed to be a balancing act between the seriousness of what happened and a need for rehabilitation.’’ 

The magistrate, when sentencing the child, said: “I cannot accept that restorative justice alone for you is an appropriate penalty and… I’ve considered everything that I need to under the Youth Justice Act.’’ 

“I do consider that even if it is a short period of probation together with restorative justice that that would reflect the seriousness of the offences and also perhaps continue with the work that has been done to give you the skills and support so that you are not doing this sort of offence again.”  

Judge Richards disagreed, saying the girl had no previous criminal history and that despite the fact the she committed a serious offence she had done so in a manner that was “acting out of character.’’ 

“(Matilda) had no criminal history… (and) she was engaged within the community with plans for the future, was receiving counselling, was involved in programs offered to her and was engaged with services such as the TAIHS (Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Services),’’ Judge Richards said. 

“In those circumstances, an additional penalty of probation was not required. Further, in this particular case, a probation order of three months would serve little additional purpose to a restorative justice order as the restorative justice order would take place over the same period of time. 

“The sentence is set aside … (and) is substituted to the extent that an order for a restorative justice process pursuant to s163 and s164 (of the Youth Justice Act 1992) take place.”

Read the full decision on the Court’s website

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