Teen burglar the victim of 'shocking' bullying

A teenage burglar who stole women's underwear had been the victim of shocking and sustained bullying, a court has heard.

The teen was convicted and discharged without sentence on six counts of burglary, during an appearance before Judge Joanna Maze in the Ashburton District Court yesterday.

The court was told the offender entered two homes, went into a bedroom at each address and stole women's underwear. Evidence was left on one occasion.

The offending was uncovered when the teenager was caught on film.

Defence lawyer James Rapley asked Judge Maze to discharge the defendant without conviction, given the circumstances surrounding the offending, but she found the matters at hand too serious to accept the recommendation.

She said the young victims had described feelings of deep despair and distress. Furthermore, the offending had occurred on six separate occasions and had involved interfering with highly personal items.

However, she pointed to the evidence supplied by specialists in two reports requested at the teen's last appearance, which disclosed he had been the victim of shocking and sustained bullying over a prolonged period.

"He was the victim of unprovoked and sustained cruelty - and I use that word deliberately, from other students at school for almost all of the time he was there," Judge Maze said.

The teen was also subject to "vitriolic attacks" by social media, ridiculed in the classroom, and physically assaulted on many occasions, after which those responsible took to social media to boast about their actions.

Offensive items were left in the family's mailbox.

Judge Maze pointed to a Victoria University study which demonstrated the propensity of young people to side with bullies on social media to gain acceptance. This appeared to have occurred in this case, as was evident in social media transcripts provided by the defence.

She described the teen as "a talented, refined, shy, sensitive young man that any parent would be proud of".

Since leaving school he had turned his life around.

Mental health specialists were of the opinion the offending was largely the result of unconscious actions at the time, which the offender was also at a loss to explain.

They found the teen had been suicidal at the time, was suffering an identity crisis, had felt unable to tell his family, and was an easy target for bullies. Both agreed the risk of reoffending was very low.

Judge Mazes said all identifying details must be suppressed to preserve the offender's prospect of rehabilitation and the identity of the victims.

She said this applied to both spoken and written words in any forum or medium.

"Any person who breaches this suppression is likely to be prosecuted or held in contempt of court," she said.

Ashburton Guardian