AGE OF DESPAIR: Young repeat offenders frustrate Dubbo court system

MAGISTRATE Andrew Eckhold has expressed despair and frustration about the large number of young repeat offenders appearing in Dubbo Children's Court.

He said the same children and teenagers were coming before him time and again.

"Dubbo is not the only town where this is happening,'' the magistrate said.

"I really don't know what our society can do about these matters. I am trying to do something constructive but it is a question of resources and how they are allocated.''

Magistrate Eckhold accepted Juvenile Justice and Mission Australia were doing what they could.

But he believed many at-risk children were not receiving the supervision, protection and guidance they required from their parents and carers.

The magistrate made the comments yesterday while dealing with a 10-year-old boy with an extensive criminal history.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was taken into custody on two fresh breaches of bail.

According to court documents, he is already facing multiple breaches of bail curfew and non-association orders in addition to charges of throwing rocks at a bus in Minore Road, entering enclosed lands at the Riverdale shopping centre and being on the roof of a house in O'Donnell Street, West Dubbo.

Small and slightly built, the boy was led into court by two Juvenile Justice officers.

He could barely see over the front of the court room dock as he sat impassively while the police prosecution opposed bail.

"It is (an) unfortunate situation,'' the prosecutor said.

"Although of a tender age, he has six pages of criminal history and has had six breaches of bail in the last six weeks.

"He has shown no regard for court orders. He continues to breach bail.''

Magistrate Eckhold interjected with comments on the age of criminal responsibility.

"Between the age of 10 and 14 we cannot say the guilty mind exists,'' the magistrate said.

According to law, the prosecution must prove offenders aged between 10 and 14 knew what they were doing was seriously wrong and not merely naughty or mischievous.

The court heard the boy had breached bail by trespassing, breaking curfew and meeting with alleged co-offenders.

Legal Aid said the boy was easily led by his peers.

Of the people noted in the court-imposed non-association order, two were his cousins, three were his friends and another lived nearby, the Legal Aid solicitor said.

“He is only allowed to see (those named in the non-association order) at school and he only attends school for two hours a day.

“It is very difficult - the cluster of young people he is ordered not to associate with are like his family network.’’

Magistrate Eckhold said police were concerned about children, aged between seven and 12 years, being on top of a building.

A Juvenile Justice officer told the court the boy was subject to weekly bail supervision.

“We have tried to contact his mother but her phone is not working,’’ the officer said.

“(Staff) went to the home but she was not there. We phoned the primary school where he is required to attend two hours in the mornings. The school reported his attendance this month has been sporadic. A referral has been made to UnitingCare Burnside for family support.’’

Magistrate Eckhold said it was entirely unsatisfactory when the same young faces kept appearing in court.

“I hope (support) services can identify assistance for him,’’ the magistrate said.

“His parents and carers have to take responsibility for him. They are not in court.’’

Magistrate Eckhold said the boy was “at risk”.

“He is not being adequately assisted or supervised.

“I will allow bail to continue, recognising that I really don’t know what our society can do about these matters.’’

The boy will reappear in children’s court on Monday.

heather.crosby@ruralpress.com

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