A disadvantaged recidivist youth offender with the cognitive age of a “five to six year old” has been denied bail as a “matter of law” by a despairing magistrate.
The magistrate said locking the boy up in detention seemed “unusually cruel, harsh and apt to harm him”.
The plight of 16-year-old ‘Jimmy Mansfield’ (a pseudonym) is detailed in a nine-page decision of a Childrens Court magistrate who reluctantly refused him bail on the grounds he was likely to reoffend and could pose a danger to the community.
The decision means Jimmy is likely to be detained at Townsville’s Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in conditions the magistrate described as “profoundly inappropriate” and is likely to spend 70% of the time detained in a cell.
Mount Isa Magistrate Eoin Mac Giolla Rí on 3 February detailed a multitude of disadvantages Jimmy had endured since birth – including his reliance on government child safety and care agencies from the age of three and numerous encounters with the youth justice system since he was 10.
The decision also speaks of Jimmy’s persistent acts of anti-social behaviour, extensive criminal history and how he has “no meaningful pro-social connections” throughout his life other than government officials.
“(Jimmy) was and is (living) in a world of paid carers, police and lawyers and … there is no one in his life that has a positive role to play just because they care for him and love him,” Mr Mac Giolla Rí said.
On 24 and 27 January, lawyers for Jimmy fronted the Childrens Court and applied for his release on bail pending the resolution of 10 criminal offences allegedly committed in December 2021.
During the hearing, a comprehensive psychologist’s report was tendered detailing the many challenges Jimmy had been handed and continued to deal with.
“The report contains the following relevant background information about Jimmy,” Mr Mac Giolla Rí said. “He was exposed to alcohol in utero. When he was two years old he fell from 2 metres, landing on his head.
“Many (psychological) assessments had previously been conducted on Jimmy, though he appears never to have co-operated with any of the reporting clinicians.
“All previous reports had been for the purposes of ‘others’ rather than Jimmy, (i.e., courts, lawyers, teachers). (None of those) reports focused on how best to care for Jimmy.
“A November 2017 psychiatric report concluded that he had a moderate intellectual impairment, possibly as a result of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FAS-D). Another report suggested a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder manifesting in poor emotional regulation, self-harm and aggressive behaviours.
“He had no meaningful pro-social connections. His was, and is, a world of paid carers, police and lawyers and, in particular, there is no one in his life that has a positive role to play just because they care for him or love him.
Mac Giolla Rí also noted Jimmy had a current cognitive age of a five to six year old and had been in the care of Queensland’s Department of Child Safety since 2008, when he was aged three.
“Jimmy is a moderately cognitively impaired 16-year-old First Nations young man charged with … 10 offences, all committed in December 2021,” Mr Mac Giolla Rí said.
“Jimmy committed the first (ever) offence … in June 2015. At that time he was 10 years old. Jimmy’s history records many charges that have been withdrawn or dismissed – particularly offences when he was between the ages of 10 and 13 years of age, which leads to an irresistible inference that the prosecution accepted that he did not have the mental capacity to commit criminal offences at those times.
“Since June 2019, when Jimmy was 14, he has been sentenced for many offences. His offending involves property offending and violence. A relatively small portion of those offences were committed in calendar year 2021, but the history does not allow me to understand whether that is because of a ‘de-escalation’ in his offending or an increased amount of time spent in detention and out of the community.”
Prior to the charges presently before the courts, Jimmy was last released from detention on 1 December 2021.
The court was told the outstanding 10 charges were alleged to have been committed in two phases in December 2021.
“The first phase is alleged to have involved stealing a car and driving it around Mount Isa, stealing from a car and stealing a phone from an employee at the youth shelter at which he was residing.
“The subsequent (alleged) offending is said to have started with breaking into a motel and running amok and thereafter running from police.
“These offences, if proven, would demonstrate that he had breached his curfew, though that is not, in itself, an offence. He was granted watchhouse bail after the motel offence and, immediately upon release, is alleged to have committed the offence of breaking into an unoccupied dwelling and stealing property with a value … of $2000.
“All the offending is said to have occurred with other young people.”
Mr Mac Giolla Rí said there were numerous reasons to support Jimmy’s application for bail, such as the nature of the offending behaviour and the time already spent in pre-sentence detention.
“The offences for which he seeks bail are not of the most serious kind,’’ he said.
“There is a very real doubt, on the material available to me, about Jimmy’s fitness to plead and instruct. The question of fitness may require reports to be obtained and, if required, it is likely that these reports will take some months to prepare.
“If I refuse bail the child may have to remain in custody for that time. Jimmy has done 44 days detention already.”
However, he said factors weighing against granting Jimmy bail included his history of property and violence offences, some of which were “relatively serious crimes”.
“Ultimately, I refuse bail. Without an appropriate placement (other than detention) Jimmy presents as an unacceptable risk of committing offences that will endanger the community.
“I am required by law to refuse him bail as there are no conditions that I can impose that would adequately mitigate the risk involved absent an appropriate placement. I will gladly revisit this question of bail if Child Safety can find more suitable placement and care arrangement for Jimmy.”
Read the decision.