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Connecting people & communities BERWICK

Incorporating South-East Star Real Estate Incorporat

Thursday, 30 March, 2017

A Star News Group publication

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Berwick

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Family’s thanks for life

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An 18-year-old man who lives in Casey has pleaded guilty to setting a door on fire and damaging a roof during a recent “nightmarish” riot at Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre. Devontae Ulutui had used an iPad to set fire to rubbish and clothes, which he piled next to an exerciseyard electronic security door about 2.15pm on 25 January, Dandenong Magistrates’ Court heard. The door was “engulfed” in flames as Ulutui and four inmates fed the fire with jumpers and other items, the court was told. The centre had earlier gone into lockdown due to about 18 inmates rioting elsewhere in the facility. At the same time, an “unruly” Ulutui and his group refused to leave the exercise courtyard and go back to their cells. They repeatedly kicked windows and doors as well as tearing down a section of roof flashing, police prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Amber-Lea Browne said. After surrendering that evening, Ulutui was charged with arson and criminal damage for $12,000 of damage to the door and roof. At the time, he was serving a two-year detention term until May 2019. His lawyer told the court that an “immature” Ulutui and his group had not had access to the gym for long when the lockdown started, and so wanted to stay. To Ulutui’s credit, he didn’t join the escape of inmates after a prisoner took possession of a key and let others out later that day, the lawyer said. The accused was being “stood over” after being transferred to the adult Port Phillip Prison on 30 January, his lawyer said. Even after being moved to the prison’s youth wing, Ulutui was

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vulnerable as one of the youngest detainees. “He would prefer a youth system than an adult system.” The lawyer said Ulutui had descended into drug use, homelessness and serious criminality since a “sensitive” family issue in 2014, and was at risk of being institutionalised. Magistrate Jack Vandersteen several times told Ulutui to take off his cap during the hearing via a videolink from Port Phillip Prison on 27 March. Mr Vandersteen said the accused’s behaviour added to the sense of chaos and emergency during the riot. “A fire in a custodial environment is very serious,” he said, noting a fatal blaze at the former Pentridge prison in the past. “It places yourself and other inmates at risk of being hurt, not just by fire but the smoke. “This would have been a nightmarish afternoon ... there’s a massing of individuals not complying with directions then a fire causing $10,000 of damage.” Ulutui had turned 18 just three days before the riot, and had a “significant” history of crime and breaking justice orders, he noted. “What he doesn’t appreciate is that now he is an adult, we can take into account general deterrence (in sentencing).” A Youth Justice report presented to the court found Ulutui was unsuitable for youth detention, but Mr Vandersteen said he’d “left that door open to you”. “You know if you keep playing up ... they’ll return you to Port Phillip.” Ulutui was sentenced to 12 months in a youth detention centre - half of which was on top of his current term.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

News - Berwick - 30th March 2017  
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