Hope for homeless teenager

LOOKING through the eyes of a mother, Gympie Magistrate Maxine Baldwin could see there was potential for habitual shoplifter Kiel Richards to stay on the straight and narrow if he had a place to call home.

Richards, 18, was back before Gympie Magistrates Court once again, this time for stealing a bottle of alcohol on March 6. With a variety of court orders and suspended prison sentences hanging over his head, it looked like Richards was headed for prison but this time he was in a very different situation to the homelessness that was believed to have been the cause of most of his offending behaviour.

When he fronted up to court, Richards was not alone, but fully supported by friends willing to help take care of him and keep him out of trouble

The first thing Mrs Baldwin said was that she was concerned for Richards’ wellbeing and asked if he had found stable accommodation.

A friend said Richards had been living on the streets since he was young and told the magistrate an older couple in Curra had met him and were happy to take him in and care for his welfare.

The friend said the couple were well equipped to deal with Richards, having looked after 30-plus street kids during their time as foster parents.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Lisa Manns said Richards needed a long-term deterrent to help him avoid coming back before the court but Mrs Baldwin said she didn’t know what it would take.

“(It appears Richards) has little ability to understand consequences,” she said and commented on his lengthy criminal history.

“At only 18 years of age you have got to start putting down roots and find a permanent home. Lack of money causes you to do impulsive things (but) the game is up. You can’t keep committing these offences. If you keep bowing it ultimately you will end in jail,” she said to Richards.

Mrs Baldwin said she took into account Richards’ early plea of guilty and revoked an intensive correction order that he was serving, re-sentencing him to 170 days in prison with immediate parole.

For stealing, Richard was sentenced to three months in prison wholly suspended for two years and instead of activating all three of the suspended sentences hanging over Richard’s head, Mrs Baldwin extended each of them by two months.

“If you can last to March 2012 without committing another offence you won’t serve any time in jail,” Mrs Baldwin said.

“You’ve got a lot of people here supporting you — don’t blow it.”

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