Townsville Bulletin

Boy jailed over deaths


In my submission, the defendant’s prospects of rehabilita­tion are limited

A YOUNG boy crawls from the wreck of a stolen car.

His big brown eyes are burned into the memory of the police officer he begged to save his friends’ lives.

But it was too late. Nothing could be done. Four young lives were lost in the most senseless way.

What police encountere­d in the early hours of July 7 last year – the four small bodies scattered among the remnants of a mangled Kia Sorento – changed their lives.

Countless other lives were devastated too.

The eerie silence that filled the empty streets is not easy to forget for one of the first responders, an officer with 17 years’ service.

More than a year later the small frame of the now 15-year-old driver sits dwarfed and without shoes in the dock of Townsville Childrens Court. He waits silently to be sentenced. At an earlier date he pleaded guilty to four charges including unlawfully using a motor vehicle, dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death while excessivel­y speeding, burglary and stealing, and possessing a dangerous drug.

It is not his first time before a court. Just 18 days before the crash he was sentenced for a string of almost 30 property offences. This was just one entry in his “appalling” criminal history.

He was on bail and subject to a court order as he crept through the dark, broke into a home and stole a car to joy ride.

CCTV footage captured the car as well as another stolen vehicle in convoy as they sped across the city running red lights, accelerati­ng away from police and driving dangerousl­y on the wrong side of the road.

Crown Prosecutor Monique Sheppard said the car was driving dangerousl­y across the city for a “protracted” time but was travelling at an estimated speed of 128km/h just seconds before the collision.

Police trailing the two stolen cars did not witness the crash but came across the wreckage moments later.

Ms Sheppard asked the court to impose a sentence of nothing less than five years’ custody with the requiremen­t the boy serve 60 per cent.

In her submission­s to the court Ms Sheppard said the boy demonstrat­ed limited understand­ing of his offending and had refused therapeuti­c referrals while in custody.

“In my submission, the defendant’s prospects of rehabilita­tion are limited,” she said.

“(He) had difficulti­es expressing or identifyin­g with the victims of his offending (and) why they should still feel upset a year after.

“There have been 41 behavioura­l instances since the defendant has been in detention.”

The boy’s defence barrister, Darin Honchin, said the tragic circumstan­ces of the case could not “overwhelm” the sentencing process.

He rejected the prosecutio­n submission that the boy was not remorseful.

“He is suffering for what he has done as well,” he said.

“There can be no sentence that can compensate for the loss of life

and four young lives particular­ly. “The reality is, while it might be difficult to accept, this was also a life that has been affected significan­tly as a consequenc­e.”

Victim impact statements from the families of the deceased were presented to the court and highlighte­d the immense pain felt after the crash claimed the lives of Lucius Hure-hill, 13, Aaliyah Tepaa-brown, 17, Rayveena Coolwell, 15, and Cayenne Nona, 14.

The statement from Beverly Robertson, the mother of 14-year-old Cayenne Nona, was read to the court and paid tribute to an artistic and bubbly teenager.

“Every day I still struggle … I am visiting an empty grave every morning and every evening,” the letter said.

The court was told a blood test revealed the boy had marijuana in his system when he was arrested but that it was not enough to render him under the influence.

Judge Paul Smith handed down the sentence on Friday to a courtroom packed with the emotional friends and families of the four deceased children.

In reaching his conclusion, Judge Smith said he took into account the boy’s age and criminal history, his plea of guilty and the provisions of

the Youth Justice Act. “This is not an offence of malice,” Judge Smith said.

“I am sure you are sorry now for what you did. You are very young.”

A sentence of five years’ custody was imposed for the most serious offence of dangerous driving causing death.

The boy was convicted and is required to serve 60 per cent of this sentence.

Lesser concurrent sentences, with no conviction­s, were imposed for the other charges.

He has spent 491 days in custody. The boy will be released after serving 60 per cent of his five-year sentence.

 ?? ?? The scene of the crash at a Garbutt intersecti­on where four children died.
The scene of the crash at a Garbutt intersecti­on where four children died. CROWN PROSECUTOR MONIQUE SHEPPARD

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