Teen thief hospitalised, victim investigated for assault

Marissa Calligeros | The Brisbane Times
July 4, 2011 – 2:23PM

Teenager allegedly bashed by victim

A teenager winds up in intensive care after allegedly being chased and bashed after trying to break into the garage of a Nerang home.

A leading criminal defence lawyer says it unlikely a teenager who chased down a younger teen after catching him trying to steal his pushbike will be charged.

However, his victim may face criminal charges over the botched break in.

The 13-year-old boy is in a stable condition in hospital after being caught trying to break into the garage of a Nerang house to steal a pushbike about 10pm on Friday alongside two friends, police said.

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The trio were disturbed by a 16-year-old boy, who then chased them down the street, before catching the younger teen.

The 13-year-old was later taken to the Gold Coast Hospital with serious injuries, but his condition has since stabilised.

Gold Coast lawyer Bill Potts said there was a clear line between self-defence and retribution, but the 16-year-old may escape criminal charges, as he is considered a juvenile under Queensland law.

“If an adult had done the same thing he would very swiftly find himself arrested for assault,” he said.

“The court and the law requires that people only use reasonable force. It does not entitle us or enable us to inflict harm on people.”

Mr Potts warned that residents can only physically defend their property as far as the driveway or back fence.

“The criminal code makes it very clear that people are entitled to defend their own property to the extent that it is reasonably necessary,” he said.

“If someone has invaded your house in the middle of the night then you can use sufficient force to repel them, to disenable them and get them away from your property.

“The duty of any person in those circumstances is to report it to call the police, perhaps follow them to identify them, but under no circumstances is it justified to effectively assault someone once the need to the defend the property and themselves is over.

“The idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is the rule of the jungle, it’s not the rule for Queensland.”

A police spokesman said officers from the Gold Coast Child Protection Investigation Unit were investigating an alleged assault.

“We’ve spoken with the boy and his family, but they have not yet made a formal complaint,” he said.

“The CPIU will speak with the family today.”

It is not clear whether the two teens knew each other before the incident.

No jail time over senseless death

Emmaline Stigwood   |  June 22nd, 2011

Mark Leslie Fitzgerald and Bill Potts
Elanora graphic designer Mark Leslie Fitzgerald (left) and solicitor Bill Potts. Pic: Philip Norrish.

ONE of the witnesses said it himself — put testosterone, alcohol and the early hours of the morning together and nothing good was ever going to come of it.

A jury yesterday acquitted Elanora graphic designer Mark Leslie Fitzgerald of manslaughter, but it came after years of “hell” for all involved with a group of young, drunk men who got into a fight outside the Big Chief burger shop at Coolangatta on Father’s Day, 2009.

Fitzgerald, 23, pleaded not guilty to unlawfully killing Andrew Houlahan, of Pottsville, by punching him in the head during a fight in Griffith St about 2.30am on September 6.

What sparked it seemed to come down to a spray of verbal insults traded inside the burger shop as Mr Houlahan, 23, and his two friends passed Fitzgerald and his mates.

All had been drinking for hours.

Some witnesses said it started with Mr Houlahan’s friends calling Fitzgerald’s group “faggots” and “emos” for the way they dressed in tighter pants.

Before long one of Fitzgerald’s mates threw a punch at one of Mr Houlahan’s friends and a messy group fight flared.

Lawyers for Fitzgerald raised self-defence and accident, telling the jury in the Supreme Court in Brisbane to look at the CCTV footage of the “dynamic” brawl that ended when Mr Houlahan slumped to the ground and never got back up.

Mr Houlahan died from irreparable brain injuries in hospital later that day as his family made the decision to turn off life support.

During the trial the Crown argued Fitzgerald had no need to punch Mr Houlahan and a reasonable person would have foreseen that his actions could have ended in death.

The jurors were told to ignore the One Punch Can Kill campaign, and instead focus on the facts.

They returned a not guilty verdict. Outside court defence solicitor Bill Potts said Fitzgerald wanted the case to be a lesson to others.

“Can I simply say this, there are no winners,” Mr Potts said.

“Mr Fitzgerald is, ah, pleased, but at the same time he is very concerned that a lesson be learnt and a message be sent and that is that one punch can kill and one simple moment of stupidity can lead to a lifetime of regret.”

For the full story see page 6 of today’s Gold Coast Bulletin.