Melbourne – Australia
A teenager who allegedly kicked a police officer in face is back in police custody for breaching his bail conditions just days after he was controversially released.
The 17-year-old, who cannot be identified, is charged with assaulting police – an offence that carries a mandatory jail term of six months – after he allegedly kicked the officer at Highpoint shopping centre on Boxing Day.
As part of his bail conditions, the teenager was told he must live with his family, cannot leave Victoria, cannot associate with another African male known to police, must not have a mobile phone and must stay off social media.
It is believed he was caught with a mobile phone within hours of being freed.
Victoria Police confirmed detectives from the Maribyrnong Crime Investigation Unit remanded the teenager for breaching his bail conditions on Thursday night.
During his bail application in a children’s court this week, an investigating detective said the teenager had previously spoken online about planning retribution against police as payback for his arrest in 2016 on other offences.
“He harboured a hatred towards police and he stated he had been biding his time,” the detective told the court on Tuesday.
“He had been very angry towards police and wanted to get back at them, consistent with what he stated on Facebook.”
But despite those concerns, a magistrate bailed the teenager – who is due to start Year 12 this year – based on the finding that the grudge he held towards police dated back 18 months, and that he had not been in trouble since the 2016 arrest.
“There is always going to be a risk in relation to you, but it has not been established that it is an unacceptable level of risk in relation to reoffending and to the safety and welfare to members of the public,” the magistrate told the boy.
The teen’s lawyer told the court the boy was prepared to stay away from the Maribyrnong shopping centre and abide by a curfew, but the magistrate ruled those conditions weren’t warranted.
The magistrate’s decision had been slammed by both sides of Victorian politics amid high scrutiny of a series of crimes across Melbourne committed by young African men.
The children’s court on Thursday made available an audio recording of the teenager’s bail application, and the magistrate’s ruling. The names of children, court officers and lawyers cannot be published when cases are before the children’s court.
The detective and police prosecutor told the magistrate the teenager kicked the officer while the policeman was on his knees arresting another teenager for alleged shoplifting. They said the assault was pre-meditated and against a vulnerable target.
The officer suffered bruising and swelling to his left eye.
The teenager’s actions, combined with what he wrote about police previously, raised concerns he would plan further acts of retribution if he was released from custody, police told the court. He spent four nights in custody after his arrest on December 29.
The magistrate said the charges against the boy were serious, and that police had a strong case, based on CCTV footage. She was concerned about what the teen wrote online in 2016, and those posts gave police a “justifiable fear” about what he might do.
But the posts were written 18 months ago, the magistrate said, and the boy had not been in trouble with the law since.
He has previously been charged with serious offences and has been on a probation since the middle of last year. The court heard he had engaged with a youth justice worker last year, but had failed to meet his past seven appointments.
There was no evidence he had previously failed to meet bail, the court heard, and the magistrate took into account evidence from the boy’s mother, who said her son was obedient, attended school regularly, played sport in the community, and had strong family support.
“You are very well supported by your family – don’t disappoint them or your community,” she told the teenager as she granted bail.