A magistrate has vented frustration over limited options after an 11-year-old Canberra girl was brought before the courts on assault charges three times in less than three weeks.
The girl had been detained over the weekend after an alleged incident on Friday with a carer.
She was freed today after ACT’s Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said she was faced with a stark choice between detention and letting the girl back into the community, when she had significant concerns about her mental health.
She said that included threats to harm herself.
The ACT Children and Young People Act provides for a therapeutic place to be established, but so far nothing has been provided.
“If the purpose of our legislation were fulfilled there’d be a therapeutic place,” Ms Walker said.
“But despite its inclusion in the legislation there isn’t one.”
The court was told if the charges went ahead there would have to be a report prepared for the child, assessing whether she was fit to plead.
Her lawyer Hugh Jorgenson said it would elongate the process.
“That would maybe take up to six weeks,” Mr Jorgenson said.
Ms Walker also noted it was a significant problem in assessing how to treat the girl.
“So we’d be back in the same position in which we were looking for somewhere safe for [her] to be accommodated.”
She found there was no utility in proceeding with the charge and released the girl to her carers.