Boy walks free from court on 22 criminal charges

Shonagh Dillon

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A YOUNG tearaway who was accused of committing more than 20 crimes has been released without charge because the courts had no legal way to deal with him.

The legal situation for the 12-year-old was described as being ‘a perfect storm’ by the district judge handling the case at Fareham Youth Court.

As reported in The News, the boy entered 22 guilty pleas back in July for offences ranging from thefts to common assault, criminal damage and sexual assault, as well as racially aggravated assaults, around Portsmouth city centre, mostly in May and June.

The case had since been back before the courts 15 times in a bid to find a way to deal with the boy.

But psychiatric and psychologists’ reports established that the boy, originally from the city, only has an IQ of 58, putting him in the bottom three per cent for his age and unable to understand the implications of his acts.

In light of the reports, district judge Anthony Callaway allowed new, not guilty pleas to be entered for all the charges under common law powers.

Making a finding of fact, district judge Callaway found that the boy had committed the acts, but because he could not participate in any meaningful way in court proceedings, could not be found guilty.

A doctor’s report recommended giving the youth, who lives in foster care, a hospital order under the Mental Health Act.

But because he was not found guilty, the boy could not be given a criminal sentence. The only other option was to give the youth absolute discharges on all counts.

David Tongs, from the youth offending team, told how the youth’s behaviour had ‘deteriorated beyond control’ in recent weeks: ‘He’s become abusive, he’s been running away almost on a daily basis, and running away from school almost as soon as he’s taken there,’ he said.

District Judge Callaway said: ‘I’m afraid as far as I understand it, I don’t think there is any way home in the law as it presently stands.

‘We can debate it as long as we like, saying how wrong it is.’

‘This case has all the makings legally of a perfect storm. However, the court can only apply the law as it is – not as it would like it to be.’

‘That is not a course that particularly commends itself to me, but it is the only course open to the court.’