Charges abandoned against boys accused of starting fatal bushfire

Charges abandoned against boys accused of starting fatal bushfire

07 November 2011

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Australia — TWO boys accused of starting a fatal Black Saturday bushfire at Bendigo have walked free from the Supreme Court today after the charges against them were abandoned.

Prosecutor Steven Melesi told Justice Paul Coghlan that the Director of Public Prosecutions had filed a notice of discontinuance against the pair.

This notice is served on a defendant and filed with the court and effectively brings a proceeding to an end.

In August a Supreme Court jury founds that the boys, who both had IQs below 60, were unfit to face trial because of their intellectual disabilities.

Mr Melesi said today the DPP had decided “this matter will not proceed further” and the judge told the boys, who were aged 13 and 14 on Black Saturday, that they were free to go.

“I don’t proceed on the basis other than these matters are very difficult,” Justice Coghlan said.

The decision means that the pair face no further sanction, even if they started the fire.

The teenagers, now aged 15 and 16, were charged with arson causing death and intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire. It is believed they were caught near the place where the fire was deliberately lit.

Disabled man Kevin Kane, 47, died in the driveway of his Long Gully home as the inferno spread towards Bendigo and the fire destroyed 61 houses and burned out 500 hectares.

At the previous hearing a clinical psychologist said the 15-year-old, diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, had a mild to moderate intellectual disability.

He believed the boy had a limited sense of right and wrong and did not have the capacity to follow the course of a legal trial or reasonably instruct a lawyer.

The 16-year-old had presented in a more childlike manner than his younger co-accused.

He also had a mild to moderate level of intellectual disability.

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