Girl, 16, turns her life around and makes a fresh start

6th December 2017 5:00 AM
SCARY: The masked girl brandishes the large knife as the attendant takes cash from the till. SCARY: The masked girl brandishes the large knife as the attendant takes cash from the till. Ashley Clark

WIELDING a big knife and with her face hidden by a mask, a 16-year-old girl robbed a Bundaberg service station of $500 after demanding cash, only to collapse from drugs later that night at Bundaberg Hospital.

It was hospital staff who overheard the ill girl discuss the robbery at the Freedom Fuels servo.

She won't serve any time in custody after making positive efforts to reform herself - even writing a heartfelt apology on Facebook to her victims.

Now, nearly five months later, the District Court in Bundaberg heard how the girl "felt as if she was outside her body" on drugs at the time she carried out the robbery on Saturday, July 15.

Just before the robbery she also stole cash from a convenience store in Bundaberg East.

And after being released on bail for the robbery charge by a magistrate in the Children's Court, the girl went on to commit dishonesty offences just days later.

The girl pleaded guilty before Judge Anthony Rafter SC to committing an armed robbery at 6.30pm on July 15 in Kendall St; stealing cash from Marshall's East End store the same day; receiving tainted property (a bank debit card) on July 26; and two counts of fraud - dishonestly applying for her own use a debit card belonging to another person.

Crown prosecutor Christopher Cook said the girl ran into Marshall's East End store and stole "a tip jar" from the counter that held an unknown quantity of money.

Then an hour later she wore a mask to commit the armed robbery at Freedom Fuels and steal $500 from the till.

Mr Cook said her actions left the staff feeling frightened.

"Please don't hurt us," staff said to her.

Mr Cook said the robbery was captured on CCTV and shows her wearing the mask and holding the knife.

"She was located by police at hospital, admitted soon after for suffering a drug overdose," he said.

"Hospital staff overheard her talking. Police interviewed her (later) and she made admissions."

Mr Cook said the girl's associates stole a wallet and 11 days after the robbery she was given the wallet knowing it to be stolen and then used the owner's debit card to defraud.

However, the Crown accepted a report before the court about her state of mind at the time of the offences and what she had since achieved while on conditional bail.

She had no prior criminal history.

"It is a case par-excellence of the dangers of youth and drugs. Of a very youthful mind not able to rationalise the repercussions of her actions," said defence barrister Bill McMillan in his submission.

He said the girl had shown total co-operation with police and prosecution authorities. She used Facebook Messenger to express her "great sympathy and regret" to the victims.

Mr McMillan said she was studying to get certificates in aged care and childcare and her major goal was to work in childcare.

At the time of the offending the girl had previously argued with her family and been couch surfing.

She had been bullied at school because of her weight and this caused her to thrash out and be asked to leave the school.

She then mixed with a group of young people who were "fair weather friends" - not good friends.

"She felt as if she was outside her body (robbery). She was given the mask and knife," Mr McMillan said.

"She went inside the service station. She did a double-take when she saw a child but went ahead.

"This has burnt her but she now looks to the future."

Accepting submissions that the girl was making good progress and unlikely to re-offend, and it was a case for probation and community service, Judge Rafter sentenced the girl to 18-month probation for the robbery offence.

She was ordered to complete 60 hours of unpaid community service work, and on the lesser offences was placed on a three-month good behaviour.

Judge Rafter did not record convictions, saying legal authorities are very clear that this was a last resort when it came to child offenders.