Maximum Youth Court sentence for dangerous digger chase

December 8, 2015 | By More

Court House-general1The drinking habits of the parents of a 16-year-old who took a stolen digger on a dangerous joyride across Christchurch have been roasted by a Youth Court judge.

Judge Jane McMeeken even suspected that a member of the family had been drinking when they came to the Christchurch Court House to support the teenager at his sentencing.

After the boy introduced his mother, father, sister, and three cousins to the judge, she said: “Have you been drinking? I can smell alcohol. Someone’s been drinking.”

She said the boy had good qualities and was regarded as pleasant and intelligent, but after indulging in alcohol and synthetic cannabis he had done something “incredibly stupid”.

The boy had admitted taking a front-end digger and leading the police on a low-speed chase across the city. He was drunk and the police said the bucket at the front of the machine had been raised and lowered sometimes obscuring the headlights making the vehicle invisible at night.

At times the bucket had been at a height that would have caused seriously injury or death if it had hit someone.

The boy admitted a representative charge of assaulting police officers by using the digger as a weapon. The police had alleged that he had driven it at them, but youth advocate Siobhan McNulty said it was a question of recklessness and the boy had little knowledge of how to drive the machine.

She also said the offender was a “big boy” but it was a concern that he had been served alcohol at licensed premises on the night.

The boy also admitted wilful damage charges arising from the chase from Linwood to Marshland and Bexley, failing to stop for the police, and driving while forbidden.

Judge McMeeken said she was concerned that the youth’s parents drank too much, and this led to him feeling that it was okay to drink too much.

“They love you and they care for you but I am really concerned about the environment they have provided,” she said. “Young people should not grow up with alcohol swirling all about them.”

She said his actions had been “ridiculous, dangerous, and stupid” and too much had been made of them in the media. His drunken foolishness should not have been “glorified”.

She imposed the maximum sentence that could be imposed in the Youth Court jurisdiction – six months of supervision with residence, effectively youth prison.

During that time, the boy will do the Military Activity Camp programme. He will continue under supervision when he is due for early release in April, if he is released, and he has been disqualified from driving for six months.

The judge commented on how well he was looking after three months in custody and away from alcohol and synthetic cannabis.

She told him: “How your life turns out depends on the decisions you make.”

“Love you,” called family members as the teenager was taken away to begin his sentence.


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