Teen criminal gets out of jail due to 'stress'

A JUVENILE who went on a five-month crime spree across Toowoomba has had his jail sentence overturned after a judge found it to be excessive on learning the boy had not responded well to being in detention.

She claimed the boy's offending only occurred after he fell in with the wrong crowd despite the fact he had a lengthy criminal history for other unrelated offences committed in Dalby and St George.

Mark Anthony Nicholls, 13, pleaded guilty in the Toowoomba Children's Court in April this year to 11 offences including break and enter, burglary, wilful damage, trespass and possession of stolen property.

He was sentenced to four months probation and no convictions were recorded.

Nicholls found himself back before the Toowoomba Children's Court less than two months later charged with a host of offences including burglary, stealing, break and enter, wilful damage, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, unlicensed driving as well as other criminal offences.

Subsequently his probation was revoked.

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He faced court again in July where he was re-sentenced on the April matters along with the June matters and ordered to serve six months in detention and placed on a 12-month probation order after his release.

The magistrate noted Nicholls had already served 55 days in pre-sentence detention and was required to serve 70% of the six-month sentence which meant he had 70 more days to serve before being released.

Once again no convictions were recorded.
Nicholls, through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, appealed the sentence claiming it was manifestly excessive for a boy of his age.

The appeal earlier this month heard Nicholls, along with others, broke into properties in O'Quinn, Perth and James St as well as Toowoomba Hospital and stole items totalling more than $15,000.

The court heard none of the property was recovered.

A report tended to the court revealed Nicholls had moved to Toowoomba from St George where his extended family took care of him.

"After moving to Toowoomba, Nicholls formed friendships with peers who were older than him and who were well-known offenders," it said.

"Most of the new offending occurred whilst he was in the company of such peers.

"During interviews for the pre-sentence report Nicholls demonstrated a very limited ability to identify how victims may be personally affected by his offending."

The report noted Nicholls had become "distressed" while locked up in the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre awaiting sentence.

"Nicholls' level of distress at his isolation from his mother and the community whilst in detention and that his loss of freedom had been a significant imposition," the report said.

Judge Sarah Bradley, in overturning the decision and ordering the 55 days already served in detention as being sufficient, said the sentencing magistrate did not give enough consideration to Nicholls' age, guilty pleas or prospects of rehabilitation among other things.

"Although detention is no longer a penalty of last resort, it was still incumbent on the Children's Court Magistrate to carefully consider all other appropriate sentencing options," she said.

She placed Nicholls on 12 months probation and ordered no convictions be recorded.

MARK ANTHONY NICHOLLS TOOWOOMBA CRIME SPREE

  • December 23, 2013 - Possession of property suspected of being stolen
  • January 09, 2014 - Wilful damage x 2
  • January 16, 2014 - Wilful damage
  • February 04, 2014 - Break and enter and commit indictable offence
  • February 28, 2014 - Wilful damage
  • March 10, 2014 - Trespass
  • March 17, 2014 - Burglary with intent to commit an offence x 4
  • May 4, 2014 - Unlawful use of a motor vehicle
  • May 5, 2014 - Enter premises to commit an offence
  • May 17, 2014 - Enter premises to commit an offence, unlawful use of a motor vehicle and unlicensed driving.
  • May 28, 2014 - Stealing, break and enter and enter premises to steal
  • May 29, 2014 - Burglary, attempt to enter dwelling and enter dwelling to commit an offence
  • May 30 - 2014 Wilful damage, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, unlicensed driving, use of an unregistered vehicle, driving while uninsured and failure to wear a motorbike helmet.