Boy to fight 'stolen Freddo' charges
I just thought I'd share this with you all.
A 12-year-old boy will fight charges that he received a chocolate Freddo frog allegedly stolen from a supermarket in regional Western Australia.
A lawyer for the boy, who appeared in Northam Children's Court on Monday, said he would plead not guilty to the two charges of receiving, which carry similar penalties to those of theft.
The boy is alleged to have received the chocolate from a friend who had stolen it from a supermarket and to have received a novelty sign stolen from another store.
The combined value of the frog and the sign is no more than several dollars.
Police said outside the court that the boy's arrest and charging was justified and that he had previously come to their notice without being charged.
Acting Superintendent Peter Halliday, of Northam police, said charges against juveniles as young as 12 were only laid as a last resort.
"It's not about the value, it's about stopping children from offending," Supt Halliday told reporters.
He denied there were any racial overtones to the matter and said police employed a number of methods to try to keep juveniles out of the court, including cautions and the use of juvenile justice teams.
"When they don't work it's entirely appropriate that we escalate matters to the children's court," he said.
He said it was a matter of "needing to do the right thing not only by the community but also by the child involved".
WA Aboriginal Legal Service chief lawyer Peter Collins, who is acting for the boy, would not comment on the matter outside court.
He had earlier described the prosecution as "scandalous" and said the situation was unlikely to have arisen if the boy had come from a "middle class, non-Aboriginal family" in Perth.
Mr Collins told Fairfax Radio network and the ABC on Monday that the boy had missed a court appearance last month because of a family misunderstanding.
He said when arrested, he had been apprehended at school and imprisoned for several hours in a holding cell at the local police station.
"The conditions in those cells are appalling and completely ill-equipped to hold young children," he said.
"The fact of the matter is he's 12, and these are the most trivial charges imaginable, and it can hardly be a justification for this kid to be brushed up against the courts to teach him a bit of a lesson.
"It's not hard to imagine that if this had happened to a non-Aboriginal kid from an affluent Perth suburb with professional parents that this wouldn't be the situation."
The boy was bailed to appear in court again on February 22 for the setting of a trial date.
WA Premier Colin Barnett said any questions to government on the matter should be referred to Attorney-General Christian Porter, but said he suspected "there is more to the case" than had so far been reported.
"I suspect there's more to it than a Freddo frog," Mr Barnett told reporters.