Death threats towards a “particular segment of the community” have allegedly been circulating on social media since a 16-year-old boy was charged with murdering a 70-year-old grandmother, a court has been told.
Vyleen White was allegedly stabbed in the chest in Town Square Redbank Plains Shopping Centre’s underground carpark about 6pm on Saturday.
A Bellbird Park boy was arrested on Monday and has since been charged with one count of murder, unlawful use of a motor vehicle and three counts of stealing.
Acting magistrate Robert Turra rejected applications made by media organisations, including NCA NewsWire, to cover the normally closed court proceedings in the Ipswich Children’s Court on Tuesday.
The 16-year-old’s solicitor, Abbey Huckstep, told the court there had already been “online vitriol” and death threats circulating since the alleged murder and her client could face prejudice if the media application was granted.
“This matter is receiving a lot of online attention already and unfortunately despite the best efforts of certain publications to report in a way that is fair and balanced, that has not been the case so far in terms of every publication online,” Ms Huckstep said.
“Already there’s been online vitriol, which includes death threats targeted at a particular segment of the community.
“There’s already quite a lot of identifying material out in the public eye. There are images of the alleged subjects one is able to ascertain the stature of the persons involved as well as their background to a certain degree.
“We also know where the tragic matter is alleged to have occurred, the particular suburb.
“When you put those pieces together, there’s already a lot of information in the public eye that could lead to the identification of the suspects and also their family members.
“There are numerous ways the media’s presence in this matter would be prejudicial to the defendant child who is a vulnerable 16-year-old person.”
Mr Turra said while he understood the “issues with the importance of open justice” and the significant public interest in the case, there had been concerns about images released by police before the teens were arrested that continue to circulate online.
“The extensive media reporting to date and further media access to these proceedings has the potential to precipitate public speculation which could be prejudicial,” Mr Turra said.
“I note that some reporting has clearly identified the ethnicity of the defendant.
“In all the circumstances notwithstanding the public interest, I find the media presence would be prejudicial to the child and the application is refused. Court is closed.”
Mr Turra added that Tuesday’s appearance was simply “administrative” and the child would not be applying for bail.
In Queensland, bail applications for murder can only be heard before the Supreme Court.
Chanel 7’s lawyer, Sophie Robertson, told the court that media should be granted access to the court on Tuesday in an effort to ensure the community was aware of what happened in court.
“There’s public interest for mass media to make fair and accurate reports,” Ms Robertson.
“It’s a complicated proceeding, I understand there are multiple children charged with different offences in relation to one event that occurred.
“There’s a significant amount of public interest in youth justice presently, and it’s attracted a lot of media attention.
“There’s been keyboard warriors on social media and the best way in my submission to combat online distribution of information via channels of social media is to have a mass media there to report on the conduct of these proceedings.”
Two 16-year-old boys from Goodna and Bellbird Park were also arrested in relation to the incident and have both been charged with the unlawful use of a motor vehicle.
A 15-year-old boy was arrested and charged with one count of possessing tainted property in addition to the unlawful use of a motor vehicle.
Another 15-year-old Ripley boy was arrested and charged with the unlawful use of a motor vehicle after he turned himself in to the Ipswich police station on Sunday.
The arrests come after a major manhunt and public appeal for help in locating the alleged offenders.
Following the attack, Ms White’s blue 2009 Hyundai Getz was allegedly used as the getaway car and found dumped at Springfield Lakes less than 30 minutes after the incident.