5 March 2024

14-year-old alleged driver in fatal Barton Highway crash still on bail, despite intimidation concerns

| Albert McKnight

The fatal crash on the Barton Highway on 17 January 2024 resulted in the death of 19-year-old Joshua Stewart. Photo: ACT Policing.

The boy accused of killing a teenager and leaving another in a non-responsive state after a fatal crash has had his bail continued despite concerns that he may have been trying to intimidate the fourth person who had been in the stolen car.

It is alleged the 14-year-old was driving a stolen car, which contained a total of four people, before he crashed on the Barton Highway late at night on 17 January.

Joshua Stewart, 19, died after he was pulled from the wreckage, and while another 14-year-old has regained consciousness from a coma after receiving life-threatening injuries, he remained “non-responsive in hospital” as of this week.

The ACT Children’s Court received this update on Monday (4 March) when the prosecution began an application to revoke the alleged driver’s bail, an application that continued into Tuesday (5 March).

He currently faces charges of culpable driving causing both death and grievous bodily harm and had been granted bail on strict conditions in January.

READ ALSO Burglar avoids jail despite helping steal 46 phones from Westfield Belconnen

The court heard that another passenger in the stolen car, also a 14-year-old boy, had not been injured.

Last month, the alleged driver’s bail was amended to allow him to return to school, but as this was the same school as the uninjured 14-year-old, he was handed conditions ordering him not to go near or talk to this boy.

It is believed that since then, the alleged driver had banged on the window of a room the boy was in at school, then later asked him if he wanted a “tenner” and sniffed his nose in an interaction that lasted for three to five minutes. A “tenner” allegedly could have referred to $10-worth of drugs or cigarettes.

Also, he allegedly said hello to the boy from a distance.

Sam Lynch from the Aboriginal Legal Service, who represented the alleged driver, said while contact occurred, it involved “immature comments”, and there was no evidence to suggest his client had talked about the fatal crash with the other boy.

A 14-year-old boy faces a charge of culpable driving causing death over the fatal crash. Photo: ACT Policing.

He said being remanded in custody as a result of this alleged breach would be contrary to the best interests of the child, which was required to be considered by law.

Magistrate James Stewart said he was concerned about the alleged breach.

“I think it speaks to, not menacing conduct, but persistent conduct that would rattle a potential witness, particularly one who is a child,” he said.

He said it appeared there was “a pattern of an intent to make contact” when it is now known “that contact is unwelcome”.

Magistrate Stewart thought the risk of the alleged driver being on bail was the intimidation of a potential witness, but he thought the risk could be prevented by stopping the alleged driver from going to the school.

READ ALSO Burglar avoids jail despite helping steal 46 phones from Westfield Belconnen

He refused to revoke bail but said the alleged driver could not return to the same school, which meant extra resources would be required to ensure he went to another.

“This has come very, very close to you being remanded in custody,” he told the boy.

Mr Lynch said police were preparing a crash report of the vehicle, which would not be ready until April, so he wanted a lengthy adjournment in the matter so it could be received and considered by the lawyers.

The matter was adjourned to May. Bail was continued and no pleas were entered.

The uninjured boy currently does not face any charge.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.