A MENTALLY ill girl handcuffed in the Dubbo Children’s Court dock was yesterday described as one of the most vulnerable people in NSW.
The 15-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was brought before Magistrate Andrew Eckhold on a charge of having goods in her custody suspected of being stolen.
The charge related to a $30 pair of shoes from BIG W. A not guilty plea was entered by a solicitor from the Aboriginal Legal Service.
The court heard the girl lived in the Apollo Estate. Undesirable people - including two females named in court and “some older predatory men’’ - posed a danger to the girl “who was easily led and manipulated’’.
“The (family) has applied to be moved out of the Apollo Estate because of (unsavoury influences) but the applications have been unsuccessful,’’ Magistrate Eckhold said.
“The court thinks it would be better for this young person to live elsewhere.
“She is Aboriginal and mentally ill, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia following a referral to (a Sydney) hospital as an involuntary patient.
“The hospital report has not been given to the court and that is a concern.’’
Magistrate Eckhold said the girl first appeared in court two years ago for break and enter.
She had been on supervised orders and bonds for offences ranging from drug possession and goods in custody to resisting police.
“She admits using cannabis which is dangerous for someone with a mental illness,’’ the magistrate said.
“I am at a loss about what to do with her.’’
Police opposed bail, citing an extensive criminal history running over 13 pages.
The sergeant acting for the police prosecution said the girl had shown no regard for bail.
“We reject that she was forced to go to BIG W,’’ the prosecutor said.
“A person can only get so many chances. The protection of the community must outweigh attempts at rehabilitation.’’
Juvenile Justice said the girl had been compliant with supervision and offending was “linked to association”.
“She tries to steer clear of (two females named in court) but they keep coming around to her house,’’ a Juvenile Justice officer said. Magistrate Eckhold said the primary concern of bail was whether a defendant was likely to turn up to court.
“This young person has health and social issues, given where she lives,’’ the magistrate said.
“She has been compliant with Juvenile Justice but that hasn’t stopped her offending.
“I have the option of releasing her on bail or keeping her in detention - there is no other place that is safe.
“I despair about granting bail because police may be right - she may offend again.’’
Magistrate Eckhold ordered a previous bail surety to be forfeited.
New bail was granted with strict conditions and a $200 surety.
The girl was ordered to live with (a family member) in the Apollo Estate, obey Juvenile Justice officers and abide by a 7pm to 6am curfew.
She must attend school regularly, stay away from the Orana Mall shopping centre, comply with non-association orders and not consume drugs or alcohol.
Intensive bail supervision was put in place.
“I want to give her the best possible support while protecting the community,’’ Magistrate Eckhold said.
The court ordered one bail compliance check per evening during curfew hours.
“The check will ensure she is complying with bail and also protect her from some predatory older men in the community who are a danger to her,’’ Magistrate Eckhold said.
“I am aware of her vulnerability to acts of prostitution.’’
The goods in custody charge was adjourned to April 8.
The girl will face other charges in Dubbo and Warren children’s courts on March 25 and 27.
Magistrate Eckhold urged the girl to stay out of trouble.
“You shouldn’t be in the dock - you should be in school,’’ he said.
“Stop hanging around with (the females named in the non-association order).
“We are all trying to look out for you. If you have any problems see Juvenile Justice.
“If you re-offend the question of bail will be academic.’’