Boys’ Black Saturday charges dropped

By Nicole Ferrie
Updated December 30 2015 - 3:52pm, first published November 7 2011 - 11:08am
desperation: Residents fought in vain to stop the fire but it eventually destroyed many homes.
desperation: Residents fought in vain to stop the fire but it eventually destroyed many homes.

Editor’s note: As the boys have not been found guilty of a crime, comments assuming guilt cannot, and will not, be posted.

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  • Editorial: Bendigo deserves bushfire answersTHE Director of Public Prosecutions has dropped charges against two boys accused of lighting the fatal Bracewell Street fire on Black Saturday.
  • Taskforce Phoenix detectives arrested the boys on February 2 last year, almost a year to the day after fire tore through Bendigo’s western suburbs, claiming the life of Mick Kane and destroying 58 family homes and countless sheds and outbuildings.
  • One youth faced 184 charges including multiple counts of using a telecommunications device to menace, and arson.
  • The second boy faced 153 similar charges, and both were charged with arson causing death.During a bail application in Melbourne last year, the court heard the youths blamed each other.
  • A Taskforce Phoenix detective told the court the youths regularly played together in bushland behind the Allstone Quarries in Eaglehawk.
  • He said a witness saw the pair at the quarry, heading deeper into bush, about 3.15pm on Black Saturday.
  • The court heard the youths then allegedly lit a fire in Maiden Gully in a dry creek bed near Bracewell Street at 4.20pm.
  • Police interviewed the youths several times in the months after Black Saturday and told the court phone conversations between the two about the fire would form part of the evidence against them.
  • Court documents also revealed the boys allegedly made menacing phone calls to triple-0 operators between January and March last year, allegedly using obscene language and making sexual comments.
  • However, in August this year, a Supreme Court jury found the two boys were unfit to be tried because of their intellectual disabilities.
  • A forensic psychologist testified that both boys had low intellectual capacities that would never improve, and were therefore unfit to be tried.Several other mental health experts reached the same conclusion.
  • A spokesman for the Office of Public Prosecutions yesterday said as a result, proceedings would cease.
  • “The Director of Public Prosecutions John Champion SC has announced a discontinuance in the prosecution of two boys, aged 15 and 16, who were accused of arson causing death and intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire on Black Saturday in which a 47-year-old man died,’’ the spokesman said.
  • "A Supreme Court jury found in August that the teenagers were unfit to be tried due to their intellectual disabilities. The DPP subsequently considered the state of the evidence and the circumstances of the offenders and came to the view that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction, nor was it in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.”
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