Bali cannabis teen nightmare almost over

LAKE Macquarie mayor Greg Piper said the family of the 14-year-old Morisset Park boy found with cannabis in Bali are relieved the nightmare that began as a holiday is nearly over.  The boy will, given time already served, be released from custody and returned to Australia next weekend after he was sentenced yesterday to two months in prison. Media reports said that the teenager was also fined 2000 rupiah – which is just 22¢. Mr Piper, who is a friend of the boy’s family, said he had been in contact with them via text message since the verdict was delivered. ‘‘The family are just delighted, they’ll see out the week and return home to Australia to be around family and friends,’’ he said. ‘‘He obviously can’t take back the time he’s done, so a two-month sentence really is the best-case scenario. ‘‘In terms of the ordeal they’ve been through, they are very happy with the sentence.

‘‘As a family they’ve got a few things to address, but they are just concerned with the welfare of their 14-year-old son and focused on getting him home.’’ He said the arrest, which came on October 4 after the boy was found with 3.6grams of cannabis outside a massage parlour in Kuta, had taken its toll on the boy’s parents. ‘There is no doubt it’s been very stressful for them,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re good parents and a good family and they put their life on hold for their son – his mother has been by his side right through the worst of it.’’ Mr Piper said the family didn’t harbour any ill-will towards Indonesian authorities and the case could serve as a lesson for overseas travellers about observing other countries’ laws. The two-month sentence is a carefully calibrated compromise ruling by the Indonesian judge that leaves all parties, more or less, satisfied.

Amid chaotic scenes as a large media pack was, for the first time, allowed into a makeshift hearing room at Denpasar District Court, the year 9 student appeared impassive as the verdict was delivered by Judge Amser Simanjuntak. As reporters surged forward and cameramen scrambled through the court’s windows and on to a second-floor ledge for better positions, the only sign of the teenager’s emotion was his shaking hand, holding a piece of paper next to his face to obscure their view. Prosecutors had demanded a three-month jail term while the boy’s defence team had argued he should be released immediately under a new law, article 128.2, that allows juveniles to be released without charge if they are a regular drug user and had previously sought treatment. The defence team brought ample evidence to back its case.

But, making his ruling yesterday, Judge Simanjuntak said he was required to give the boy a prison sentence because he had already served a period in custody and it was possible that the boy’s family could seek compensation from the Indonesian government if he was released with no charge. But, rather than send the boy straight to prison to serve out the remaining nine days of his sentence as is standard, the judge gave the boy’s legal team a week to decide whether or not to appeal. That cut-off comes, conveniently, on Friday next week. The lawyers will wait until the last moment and then inform the court they will not appeal. The youth will then have two days left to serve in prison but, because it will be the weekend, he won’t be moved from the immigration centre where he has stayed with his parents for more than a month.

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