Bali Teen Guilty of Purse Theft, but Free to Go
Made Arya Kencana
A 15-year-old on trial for stealing a purse that contained Rp 1,000 (11 cents) was found guilty by a Denpasar court on Tuesday, but was released into the custody of his parents, contrary to earlier demands by prosecutors that he be sentenced to seven months in prison.
“The defendant is returned to his parents as it is in line with the juvenile tribunal and restorative justice principles that stress guidance, teaching and rehabilitation to resolve cases involving children who are victims, perpetrators or witnesses,” presiding judge Puji Harian said in court on Tuesday.
The verdict was similar to the one imposed on a 17-year-old boy in South Sulawesi last week. That teen, identified as A.A.L., was found guilty of stealing a pair of used sandals from a police officer.
Public outcry — in the form of thousands of pairs of donated slippers — over the perceived heavy-handedness of police in pursuing the crime is believed to have pressured the judges to release the boy.
In Tuesday’s trial, Judge Puji said that the teen, identified as D.W., had been acting out of a misguided attempt to help his poor family and garner attention for himself.
Prosecutor Ni Wayan Erawati Susina had previously demanded that D.W. serve seven months in prison for the crime.
After the trial, D.W.’s parents said they were happy with the judge’s decision and pledged to educate their son and make him attend classes again.
“I will quit working to take care of him,” said D.W.’s mother, Anita. “Just let his father work alone.”
Bali’s Child Protection Agency head Ni Nyoman Masni said that the ruling should serve as a precedent for other judges.
“We have to differentiate between crime and and a child’s naughtiness caused by poverty,” Masni said.
D.W. conducted the theft with his friend Anong in Denpasar in March of last year.
Riding a motorcycle, the two pulled up alongside a woman, also riding a motorbike. D.W. snatched the woman’s purse and the pair tried to speed off but crashed.
Anong managed to escape, but D.W. was caught by residents and handed over to police.
Because of his age, D.W. was released but told to regularly report to police. He failed to do so, and was arrested again on Nov. 5 during a police raid on a motorcycle gang.
Prosecutors said they were considering whether to appeal the sentence.