The Commonwealth has dropped an aggravated people smuggling charge against a 15-year-old Indonesian boy, after Victoria Legal Aid obtained evidence to prove he was under 18.
The Magistrates’ Court heard today that the Commonwealth, which had previously relied on widely discredited wrist x-rays to maintain the boy was 19 years old, had agreed to drop the charges without proceeding to an age determination hearing.
Lawyers from Victoria Legal Aid travelled to Indonesia last month on behalf of client Dion Domun to gather evidence to prove that he was a minor at the time he was working a boat intercepted by Australian authorities off Ashmore Reef in March 2011.
Dion Domun was detained in youth immigration facilities in Darwin, and then in Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation in Broadmeadows after charges against him were filed on 15 September 2011.
Victoria Legal Aid Indictable Crime Program Manager Gavin Green said Dion Domun was looking forward to returning to his family in Indonesia.
'Our client is anything but the stereotypic wealthy people smuggler,' he said.
'Like the overwhelming majority of people charged in Australia with aggravated people smuggling, he was an easy and expendable target, recruited as a cook into what he thought was a fishing trip.
'Dion Domun is a boy, only 15 years old, from an extremely impoverished Indonesian fishing village. He left school at the equivalent of Year 8 to support his family by working as a cook on fishing boats in the Timor Sea.
'He has been in detention for several months and was facing a harsh mandatory jail term of five years – so it is essential in these cases that the police act quickly to gather evidence when age is in dispute.'
Mr Green said obtaining direct proof of age was almost impossible from a distance, which made it crucial for those gathering evidence to travel to Indonesia.
'The Commonwealth do not themselves travel to these communities to obtain first hand evidence. As well as ensuring that a 15-year-old boy is returned to his family, the evidence we sought has saved the taxpayer the significant cost of a trial in the County Court,' he said.
There are 55 men in detention on aggravated people smuggling charges in Victoria, including two others whose age is in dispute.
A second age determination hearing involving another client is set to resume in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Friday 18 November.
See Victoria Legal Aid’s Response to Deterring People Smuggling Bill 2011, which includes case studies.
Reviewed 19 April 2022