Charged with receiving chocolate frog

By Legal Eagle

There’s not much to say about this story except that it is utterly outrageous:

An Aboriginal boy, 12, will face a children’s court today charged with receiving a stolen Freddo frog.

The chocolate frog, allegedly shoplifted by the child’s friend from a Coles supermarket in regional Western Australia, usually sells for about 70 cents.

The boy, who has no prior convictions, also faces a second charge involving the receipt of a novelty sign from another store. The sign, which was also allegedly given to the boy by his friend, read: ”Do not enter, genius at work.”

The boy’s lawyer, Peter Collins, has lobbied WA police for the charges to be withdrawn, but authorities had failed to respond to his request, he said.

The objects of criminal law are deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation and keeping dangerous criminals out of society. On every level this charge is a BIG FAIL. In terms of retribution and deterrence, it’s seriously disproportionate, like using a bulldozer to catch a butterfly. The kid didn’t even commit the primary offence. In terms of rehabilitation, it is also terrible. Charging the kid is a great way to destroy the kid’s life forever. And then the aim of keeping dangerous criminals out of society – really, the police would be better off concentrating on people who impose harm on society rather than persecuting this poor kid.

If I were the Children’s Court judge hearing this, I’d make my thoughts on the matter very plain to the police prosecutor.

The worst thing is the racial subtext to this whole thing. Indigenous children are vastly overrepresented in gaols. Children’s rights campaigner John Fogarty said:

”If this was a non-indigenous child, the most he would probably get in Victoria and most other jurisdictions, would be the mildest of warnings by the local sergeant.”

And rightly so. There is a discretion as to how to respond to offences like this, and a gentle warning is far more appropriate for a child who has no prior offences and who was a mere recipient of stolen goods.

25 Comments

  1. Posted November 16, 2009 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Is there something like a 3-strikes/mandatory sentencing thing that could come into play here?

  2. Posted November 16, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Four Corners has recently featured a couple of programs on casual racism causing death of ATSIs. I found them gripping. One was about a black guy in WA being transported in a private security van w/o air conditioning. The heat killed him. Another was about the deaths of TSI’s on unseaworthy patrol boats whose pleas for help were ignored until it was too late.

    I don’t think current day racism is the main cause of indigenous disadvantage but it sure doesn’t help.

  3. Posted November 16, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Caught in spamulator guys.

  4. John
    Posted November 16, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    This is so absurd I have to suspect we are not being made aware of certain other issues surrounding this matter. I hope so, otherwise the relevant officers and prosecutors need their heads read.

  5. Posted November 16, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Takes me back to being in law school in the NT when mandatory sentencing was in force. There was a 15 year old kid from a remote community who stole a pencil case. He was flown to Darwin and stuck in Gaol. He hanged himself.

  6. Posted November 16, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Time was when crap like this was very much a Queensland thing (ah, the joys of growing up in Johland). Unfortunately, it appears to be bloody contagious.

  7. Posted November 16, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]… no, not three strikes YET (dunno if there is such a thing in NT), but what if he gets caught with a mars bar next time, and, shock horror, a whole box of cheezels the time after that?

  8. Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    I blogged a little on this one, LE, in the context of the apology to the forgotten Australians.

    Like you, I struggle to understand the case.

  9. HeathG
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Latest update – Freddo Frog meltdown: police chief wants charge with drawn

    this morning, Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan told ABC Radio he now wanted the charges withdrawn and referred to the state’s juvenile justice team.

    “They will not actually be dropped, but sent to the state’s Juvenile Justice Team,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

    Also, as John hinted at, there does seem to be more to this story. The Northam police are quoted as saying the boy had come to their attention before but had not been charged, whilst the commisioner is also quoted as saying that “”It is quite a complicated case, and there are a lot of issues behind it which we are not allowed to discuss publicly.”

    (though he would say that in any matter I guess?)

  10. Desipis
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I’d guess that the boy charged with receiving stolen goods is the dominant one in the friendship and is goading his friend into doing the stealing. I’d also guess that he’s not responded to lesser intervention attempts and the police are resorting to charging him with whatever they can in order to get through to the kid that his actions are unacceptable.

    I’m wondering if by formally charging the boy that other mechanism become available for dealing with him.

    …and a gentle warning is far more appropriate for a child who has no prior offences…

    How does one gain prior offenses if people are always let off with a gentle warning because they have no prior offenses?

  11. jc
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    One was about a black guy in WA being transported in a private security van w/o air conditioning. The heat killed him.

    You think it was a case of racism or that the private security guys were completely brain dead?

    Another was about the deaths of TSI’s on unseaworthy patrol boats whose pleas for help were ignored until it was too late.

    I saw that. This wasn’t a case of widespread racism of the whites in general although the program obviously did its best to portray it like that.

    It seemed to me that the guy in charge of that operation obviously was, in addition to being a compete prick. However it didn’t really show there was widespread racism, Mel.

  12. Posted November 18, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    JC says:

    “You think it was a case of racism or that the private security guys were completely brain dead?”

    One of the guards had a history of racist abuse of prisoners and various persons transported by the same company, including asylum seekers, had complained of abuse and poor treatment including being denied water, food and toilet breaks. The WA state government had also previously acknowledged the vans were below acceptable standards.

    I doubt Mr Rupert Murdoch would be transported in such a manner even if he was in receipt of two stolen chocolate frogs.

    As to the TSIs on the unseaworthy patrol boat, their emergency distress calls were received by the appropriate authorities but not acted on for several hours. Compare this to what happens when a rich yacht owner makes an emergency distress call during a yacht race.

  13. whitefrankblack
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Or when that idiot teenager falls asleep at the helm and crashes into another freighter.

    What worries me is that news like this only makes it to the paper when it is a few standard deviations toward f*ing unacceptable. Police racism is endemic, and not just in woop woop. Just ask the coloured kids living in Redfern or Flemington.

  14. jc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I doubt Mr Rupert Murdoch would be transported in such a manner even if he was in receipt of two stolen chocolate frogs.

    Really? So you’ve never seen the perp walk? It’s a great NYC institution.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAnpTJCxjsw

    But I very much doubt Murdoch would be stealing a chocolate frog as he has better things to do.

    Here’s an example of a perp getting decent treatment and even tucked in for the drive.

  15. jc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    As afar as I recall the reason the distress call wasn’t answered immediately was because of bureaucratic ineptitude and one senior public official who was a piece of shit.

    Your somehow suggesting “poor”/black boat owners don’t get the same treatment as rich boat owners. That’s patently not the case.

    One other thing.. most prisoner transportation very much depends on the level of assessed or actual propensity to violence. You wouldn’t see Murdoch in such a situation as I would guess his potential to be violent is far less.

  16. Posted November 18, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    “Out of sight, out of mind … ”

    I would like to see stats comparing emergency response times for a wealthy white adventurer in international waters compared with a TSI in Oz waters.

    Also, the TSI people in the case I mention were Commonwealth employees who were on duty plus some passengers. They were not a bunch of drunks out on a frolic.

  17. jc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I would like to see stats comparing emergency response times for a wealthy white adventurer in international waters compared with a TSI in Oz waters.

    How would that suggest anything at all though- especially racism, mel.

    Different equipment use, different personnel etc. could even suggest that the response time in the TSI is faster but you could still have “racism”.

    Also, the TSI people in the case I mention were Commonwealth employees who were on duty plus some passengers. They were not a bunch of drunks out on a frolic.

    Mel, ABC story was a hysterical beat up about generalized racism when it was really a story about pathological prick, a criminally negligent boat builder, an inept government spec for boat building and quality control.

    They sorely attempted to show generalized racism but there was none. It was a great example that reliance on government can shorten one’s life.

  18. Posted November 18, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    “I’m saying that it’s more complex than just racism …”

    I agree. Social class for example adds another layer of complexity.

  19. jc
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Mel:

    No kidding.. do you recall the 4 Corners story. There was a page of things that went wrong.

    1. The government orders a badly specc’ed boat.

    2. The boat builder cut corners and there was no quality control. The boat is dangerous.

    3. The government (local) was totally inexperienced to work in those waters but was sent out any way.

    4. The senior public official doesn’t give a shit about anything or anyone and goes out for the evening despite knowing there was a storm coming on.

    It was a cascading set of bad events that finally led to the drowning of those innocent people.

    I really don’t know how you could read racism into it except perhaps with the arsehole that was heading the office there and even then I don’t think his racist views would have motivated him to see dead people on his watch, as it wouldn’t look good for his resume.

    I think you’re reading far too much into it.

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