Ballarat regional co-ordinating magistrate Peter Couzens has again expressed frustration at Children’s Court sentencing restrictions during the appearance of a teen who pleaded guilty to three counts of affray yesterday.
The teenager was aged 17 years and 10 months at the time of the offences, forcing Mr Couzens to yesterday sentence him as a child according to law.
Mr Couzens has previously called for 17-year-olds to be considered adults by law, saying that Children’s Court sentencing principles were naive and should be readdressed.
In May, he made the comments while reluctantly sentencing a youth to a probation order.
“I make no secret that those responsible for taking 17-year-olds out of the adult court acted naively,” he said.
“We (magistrates) are prisoners of the legislation.”
Yesterday, Mr Couzens again made his thoughts on the issue clear while sentencing the teenager for his role in three violent brawls.
“You were 17 and 10 months at the time – two months shy of being an adult, able to vote, enter licensed premises or enlist in the armed forces,” he told the teenager.
“You turn 19 in August this year. I’m obligated to treat you as a child ... that’s up to the parliament to address.”
The court heard the teenager was involved in three brawls on June 17, 19 and 21 last year – the last of which was a schoolground invasion at Ballarat High School, which left one teacher unconscious and another injured.
Mr Couzens detailed each offence during the sentence, beginning with a gate-crashing of a 15th birthday party in Ross Creek.
He said at about 10pm, the teenager and a “large number of males” arrived at the party, uninvited, and were soon asked by the birthday boy’s mother to leave.
They refused and instead engaged in violence with partygoers.
Mr Couzens said the 15-year-old’s brother, 21, came outside and was attacked by the accused who kneed him to the face, breaking his jaw.
The next affray occurred in Mount Pleasant two days later when the teenager gate-crashed another party, this time with his brother in Mount Pleasant.
On that night, a female partygoer received a broken nose.
But Mr Couzens reserved his harshest condemnation for the schoolground attack, where the teenager and other males “invaded” Ballarat high School on June 21, 2011.
The court heard the teenager and a group of males entered the school’s grounds in search of a person they wanted to fight, who was a student at the school.
Mr Couzens said two teachers came outside to stop any violence from occurring, but instead became the victims in the matter.
“Two teachers were the subject of violence,” he said.
“As dreadful and abhorrent as the first two affrays were, I regard the one at the school to be the worst.”
He said the brawl went off school grounds, where a teacher who was trying to keep students off the street was struck and rendered unconscious in a gutter.
“You and others deliberately entered school grounds for the purposes of fighting a student,” he said.
“You were responsible – as were the others – for the chaos that ensued.”
The teen was sentenced to 10 months’ detention in a youth training centre, but his defence team immediately appealed the sentence and applied for appeal bail.
Mr Couzens refused bail on the grounds the teen would re-offend while in the community, owing to an admission in a youth justice report that he smokes cannabis “daily”.
“He is an unacceptable risk of offending while on bail.”