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Politician’s comments about magistrate’s decision ‘inappropriate’

The West Australian Law Society said it was “inappropriate” for a politician to make negative, public comments about a recent court decision concerning a 10-year-old boy’s mental capacity.

user iconNaomi Neilson 18 December 2023 Big Law
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Appearing in a West Australian newspaper, Police Minister Paul Papalia said he was “frustrated” by the decision reached by the magistrate, Michelle Ridley, on 12 December 2023 that a 10-year-old boy did not meet the mental capacity requirement to know what he did was morally wrong.

Mr Papalia said it sent a “bad message” and that there should have been more “serious consequences” for the boy, who had led police on a dangerous car chase through Kununurra’s residential streets.

 
 

Law Society president Ante Golem said these comments have only exposed the public to “criticism of a member of the judiciary by another arm of government”, which would have the effect of “undermining the public confidence in the administration of justice”.

In a statement, the West Australian Law Society said the article failed to acknowledge section 29 of the Criminal Code, which provides that a child between the ages of 10 and 14 may not have the maturity to understand the nature and consequences of their actions.

The article also failed to acknowledge the police investigation and prosecution were problematic, including a failure by police to comply with the law during an electronic record of interview.

The circumstances of the child had also been left out, including that he was a child of the state.

Mr Golem said the reporting suggested the magistrate correctly applied the law by holding the state must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the child knew their actions were seriously wrong before criminal responsibility can be established.

“It is the responsibility of the prosecution, and in this case, the police, to prove the child has capacity,” Mr Golem said.