Two boys are in custody after being accused of committing two burglaries in Gungahlin, although police are also investigating 17 more in the north Canberra region.
The pair, aged 15 and 16, are accused of burglarising two businesses on 2 January 2023.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage had captured two burglars using a sledgehammer to smash a window at Hair Journey in Palmerston at around 2:40 am before they stole items, court documents say.
Later that morning, CCTV again captured a pair stealing bottles of opened alcohol from the Indian restaurant Spice Affair in Casey.
Police tried to stop two stolen cars they suspected had been used in the burglaries when they were spotted at around 5:20 am in Lyneham, but the drivers did not stop and officers lost sight of them.
The documents say police received reports of 17 burglaries in the Gungahlin area during the same morning and suspect the same people may have committed them.
The boys were arrested at about 6 am while walking together through Giralang. As officers approached them, it’s alleged the 15-year-old was seen to throw a sledgehammer onto the grass.
The 16-year-old was interviewed by police in the company of his mother, telling them he’d left home on 1 January and wouldn’t say where he’d been since then.
He was shown CCTV stills of the burglary but said he didn’t recognise the locations, although he described the burglars in them as looking like they were “eshay”.
They were both charged with two counts of aggravated burglary and one count of theft and applied for bail in the ACT Children’s Court on Tuesday (3 December), which was opposed by prosecutor Hannah Mitchell based on the likelihood of reoffending.
The 15-year-old’s lawyer, Crystal Holt of Legal Aid, said he had been at a drug and alcohol residential rehabilitation program but had been discharged along with seven others before Christmas over alleged ‘chroming’ (inhaling solvents).
She said he was now welcome back into the program where he had reportedly been “making strides”.
But Ms Mitchell said the new charges the boy had just been handed were now his seventh set of alleged offences, while he had also committed five breaches of bail in the last year.
Kat Duffy from Andrew Byrnes Law Group, appearing for the 16-year-old, argued it was “by no means an infallible prosecution case”.
She said it appeared police wanted to rely on CCTV for the case but argued it was unclear if the co-defendants were clearly identified, particularly her client.
Instead, she said there was a lot of reliance on “coincidence evidence” to allege her client was involved in the burglaries.
Ms Duffy also said the boy had previously been handed two charges that resulted in full-time custody, but he said “he really has learnt his lesson” from his time behind bars.
She said at the time of the previous offending he had problems with the drug ‘crack’, but he was now sober.
Ms Mitchell argued his alleged involvement in the burglaries was not “a spur of the moment mistake” but premeditated, and while his criminal history was limited, it did mean he was aware of the consequences of criminal behaviour.
Magistrate James Lawton said due to the risk of committing other offences as well as the need to protect the community, bail would be refused for both boys.
He also said police were investigating two more suspects.
The 16-year-old became agitated when told he would stay behind bars, making comments like, “Can I say something?”
The pair were remanded in custody and their matters were adjourned to later in January. No pleas were entered.