The youth accused of the attack on a young child in Turangi last week appeared in the Taupo Youth Court yesterday. Given the intense public interest in the case, it's no surprise that an angry crowd turned up, as the Herald reports:
Public fury at a teenager charged with sexually violating a 5-year-old girl in a Turangi campground threatened to erupt into violence as he was escorted from court.
One man shouted at the boy, a 16-year-old from Turangi, to show his face as he was led between the police station and courthouse and called him a "scumbag".
Family members, some whom told the boy they loved him as he walked past, had to be held apart from angry members of the public.
The boy's father was heard to lay the blame on alcohol.
The family, some of whom arrived with young children, refused to talk to reporters outside the courthouse and at times hid their faces with their hoods and hands to avoid being filmed or photographed.
They filled one side of the public gallery, with reporters on the other, as the teenager was led into the dock at Taupo Youth Court, facing charges of sexual violation, aggravated wounding and burglary.
Dressed in baggy jeans and a white T-shirt, he trembled and fought back tears as he pointed out family members to Judge Jocelyn Munro and later clasped his hands behind his back, at times sobbing loudly.
Judge Munro remanded the youth in custody for two weeks, suppressing details. The accused did not seek bail.
Let's make one thing clear from the outset. One of the key features of our criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence. As galling as these crimes against a defenceless toddler may have been, this youth is entitled to be regarded as innocent until such time as he is proven guilty. He is also entitled by law to be represented by Counsel who will provide him with the best defence that they are able to conduct.
As sickened and as angry as we may be by the attack on the five-year-old, we must acknowledge that it is the obligation of the Crown via the Police to prove the charges against this youth. That notwithstanding, the outpouring of anger is entirely normal, and it shouldn't be unexpected. If he is subsequently found to be guilty of these crimes, the youth will be on the receiving end of plenty more of it; there's a distinct pecking order behind bars, and those who offend against children are right at the bottom of it.
Rather than having a night out with his mates to see the coming-in of 2012, we suspect that this youth will be in for a very sobering time until his next Court appearance. If the Police have got the right man (the presumption of innocence again), this youth will be learning a very stark lesson about consequences.