Teenager sent to detention after ‘disgraceful’ assault on fellow student
A teenager has been sentenced to immediate detention after pleading guilty to a violent assault against a fellow high school student in March.
The Busselton Senior High School student was sentenced to four months of juvenile detention during a lengthy sentencing in the Busselton Children's Court, in south-west Western Australia.
During the proceedings the court was told the perpetrator, who cannot be named for legal reasons, punched the 16-year-old victim while he was playing basketball during recess at the school.
The 15-year-old perpetrator then grabbed the victim in a headlock, pulled him to the ground and punched him a further 17 times, the court heard.
The assault was captured on a mobile phone and circulated on social media.
The video showed the perpetrator stomping on the victim's head twice and the victim convulsing on the floor.
Perpetrator had been bullied by victim, court hears
The student victim was later taken to hospital with lacerations that required stitches and left him with soreness, bruising and a concussion.
During sentencing magistrate Brian Mahon described the assault as extreme violence and disgraceful.
He described the final stomp on the victim as the "most horrific" and said it was distressing to see the boy flailing on the floor.
"It's genuinely a miracle that there was no brain injury here — a testament to the resilience of youth," he said.
During sentencing, the prosecution and defence agreed the assault had followed 12 months of bullying of the perpetrator by the victim, which at times included physical and verbal abuse.
Mr Mahon acknowledged the bullying had played a role in the attack.
"This is not a matter that happened in a vacuum, it happened against this backdrop," he said.
Magistrate critical of school's response to bullying
During sentencing Mr Mahon criticised the school for not acting sooner over the bullying.
"It's extremely disappointing more steps weren't taken to remove the victim and yourself from getting to this situation in the first place," he said.
He was also critical of how long it took teachers to stop the assault.
"It was disappointing it took time for others to step in, perhaps a reflection of the sad times we live in," he said.
During sentencing, police prosecutor Karl Rep told the court the incident was the most distressing example of juvenile violence he had seen during his 45-year career.
He acknowledged that previous bullying had occurred between the two, but said once the victim had fallen to the ground, the perpetrator went "in for the kill".
Stomps were 'cowardly'
The perpetrator and his family have since moved to Port Hedland in north-west Western Australia in the wake of the assault, and appeared via video link during the sentencing.
Mr Mahon acknowledged the 15-year-old's remorse over the assault was real, and described the sentencing as one of the most difficult he had experienced.
He labelled the act of stomping on the victim as "cowardly" and "unnecessary", and described a sentence of detention as the only appropriate sentence.
But he conceded the victim's family could consider the four-month sentence as lenient.
Series of assaults at school
The incident was the first of two serious assaults at Busselton Senior High School this year.
In an unrelated assault, a 14-year-old off-site student received a six-month supervision order and 20 hours of community service after punching the school's deputy principal in May.
That teen was charged with one count of assaulting a public officer and has since taken up employment at a local fast-food store.
The two attacks prompted the State Government to order an urgent review of the Department of Education's violence policies.
A meeting in May was also held between students, parents and staff at Busselton High to discuss how the school managed behavioural problems.
Education Department says no reports of bullying
WA's Education Department has defended its handling of the matter, saying there was no evidence and no reports provided to the school of bullying before the March incident.
However, it did concede there was an altercation between the two students in August 2017 which lead to the accused being suspended.
The Department's deputy director general of public schools, Stephen Baxter, said the accused was only enrolled at Busselton Senior High School in intermittent periods totalling about four months.
He also defended the actions of staff following the assault.
"That short video clip of the incident didn't reflect the full response to the situation. Other school staff arrived very quickly on the scene to assist and call for police and the ambulance," Mr Baxter said.
He said the Department was continuing to roll out training to WA teachers explaining effective ways to manage student behaviour.