12-year-old accused of St Pius X arson

HE has just turned 12, been on a bond for less than a month for robbery and is now facing allegations that he was part of a team of boy arsonists who caused more than $500,000 damage to a Hunter institution.

The child could only just see over the dock at Broadmeadow Children’s Court yesterday when magistrate Bruce Williams granted him strict conditional bail over the St Pius X High School fire because he was so young.

The boy, who is suspended from his own school, was placed back into the custody of his father with a nightly 7pm to 7am curfew slapped on him.

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The court heard the boy’s father, the child’s supervising parent, had been struggling to control him.

And the boy has also been warned to stay away from two other boys who police allege were with him at the time a large building was torched on Saturday afternoon.

The boy pleaded not guilty to the charges of destroy property in company by fire and destroy or damage property, claiming one of the other boys had lit the blaze.

Police are yet to lay other charges against other suspects, although they have spoken with two boys who were assisting with the investigation.

Mr Williams said the issue of bail was ‘‘a serious balancing exercise’’ and that it was with ‘‘some reluctance’’ that he granted bail because the boy’s ambivalence was of ‘‘some concern to me’’.

But he noted the boy’s young age meant that, if convicted, he believed ‘‘that the resources of the state look at rehabilitation’’.

‘‘If it were a 17- or 18-year-old, I would have no hesitation in refusing his bail,’’ Mr Williams said.

He later told the boy: ‘‘I can tell you now, you break the bail conditions and you stay in custody. You break the curfew, you will stay in custody.’’

A police facts sheet tendered to court said the boy and two others, also aged 12, had climbed under a fence and broken into the hall by smashing windows.

One of the other boys had received a severe cut from the windows, with the trio running off shortly after the fire was lit near the vicinity of an open door, the fact sheet said.

The court heard a bloody jumper was found next to the nearby rail line before a woman was stopped at a Park Avenue bus stop and asked for directions to get medical assistance.

Three boys also told a man at a nearby RTA facility that the injured boy had received his injury after a bottle was thrown from a passing car.

‘‘At the time the fire within the school structure spread rapidly and was threatening other structures,’’ the facts sheet said.

It later read: ‘‘The accused young person offered of his own free will admission to his presence at the scene and that a co-accused was responsible for the fire.

‘‘Police as investigators sought to expand this offer of information, a number of questions and answers were made before the accused young person declined to answer.’’

The charged boy was put on a nine-month bond for robbery.

He will reappear on July 30.

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