ONE of the youngest people ever charged with murder in Australia has been jailed for four years on the lesser charge of manslaughter over the stabbing death of a Perth man.
The Aboriginal boy, who was 11 at the time but is now 13, could be released in February, because he is eligible for supervised release halfway through his sentence and has been in juvenile detention since February 2016.
The boy, who cannot be legally named, was one of eight people who in the early hours of January 27, 2016 chased and attacked Patrick Slater, who was fatally stabbed with a screwdriver.
Several fights had broken out between the 11-year-old’s group and Mr Slater’s group following Australia Day celebrations in Perth.
That culminated in the boy and some older boys and men setting upon Mr Slater near Perth’s Esplanade train station and killing him, with parts of the battle caught on security cameras.
It was never proved who struck the fatal blow and the reasons for the fight were vague – a member of one group insulting a girl from another group, an argument breaking out and then a brawl.
“This was a cowardly attack by multiple numbers of people armed with weapons – a violent attack – on a person who was outnumbered, isolated with no chance to defend himself,” Children’s Court Judge Denis Reynolds said while sentencing the boy.
“I recognise the loss to the Slater family. It would be the worst nightmare imaginable for parents for a child to die while they were alive. The grief would be unimaginable.”
The judge urged the community and parents to reflect on the responsibility they had for the violent behaviour of their children, amid the shock felt in Perth when an 11-year-old had been charged with murder.
“This is not a time for revenge and retribution. It is a time for reflection on the loss and grief and making sure it is not repeated,” he said.
Slater was described as a “unifying” presence in his family.
His uncle Zakary Phillips said outside court they were happy with the sentence and wanted to move on after a difficult time.
The boy came from a troubled family background that Judge Reynolds said included domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, neglect, poverty, intergenerational welfare dependency and criminal behaviour including relatives spending time in prison.
The boy was not diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders – highly common among Aboriginal youths in WA – but had similar developmental issues including impulse control, hyperactivity and poor academic achievement.
However, he had done well in classes and sport in prison and had the potential to turn his life around, Judge Reynolds said.