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Judge laments lack of opportunity for Aboriginal offenders

Friday, 14th March, 2014

By Craig Brealey

Redfern, the home of “The Block”, a once-notorious Aboriginal ghetto in Sydney, now has a crime rate that is lower than the NSW average, a judge told the local sittings of the District Court yesterday.

Judge Blackmore made this comment in considering sentence for two young men who had pleaded guilty to charges relating to an overnight crime spree in Wilcannia and Broken Hill last year.

In Sydney, the judge said, young Aboriginal offenders were offered training and support after they served their time, but in the Far West there was nothing for them when they got out of jail.

“Returning to Wilcannia, where there’s not much to do and they get up to a bit of misbehaviour, to put it mildly, is not going to help them much,” Judge Blackmore said.

“The numbers in Redfern are lower than the State average,” he told the court.

“It’s not to do with where they come from, but with opportunity.”

On January 23 last year, Thomas Brian “Walker” Kennedy (22), Mervyn Bugmy (20) and two juveniles broke into St Therese’s Community School in Wilcannia and stole a Toyota Hilux belonging to the school’s principal.

They drove it to Broken Hill where they tried to break into the deli in Brookfield Avenue in the early hours of the morning before smashing their way into the fish and chip shop next door.

There they stole some soft drink, tried to steal another vehicle and then headed back to Wilcannia in the Toyota.

About 40 kilometres from town it ran out of fuel so they set fire to the interior, causing extensive damage to it.

The juveniles have already been sentenced to bonds, and Bugmy and Kennedy will be sentenced today. 

The crime of aggravated breaking and entering carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, but the men’s lawyer, Rebecca Mitchell, told the judge in her submission yesterday that the seriousness of this case was well towards “the lower end of the scale”.

“It was a bunch of young boys behaving in a very stupid way,” Ms Mitchell said.

She also asked the judge to consider that both defendants came from broken families, had little schooling, and that Kennedy had an intellectual disability that gave him the mental outlook of a seven-year-old.

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