Boys from prestigious school who left man brain damaged after bashing sentenced

Four high school students have been sentenced to juvenile detention and one released on a community order for what has been described as the “chilling, vicious, callous and senseless” bashing of a man at Stirling train station in Perth’s north.

The five teenagers, aged between 15 to 16 years old, were students at Churchlands Senior High School when they set upon 20-year-old Mathew Henson as he walked along the platform wearing earphones in February this year.

Security footage was played in the Perth Children’s Court today showing the bashing, starting with one of the teenagers running up behind him and jumping up to kick him in the back of head.

The footage then shows the five teenagers, all dressed in their school uniforms, kicking and stomping on Mr Henson’s head and body, before leaving him unconscious on the ground.

Victim may never recover

The teenager who started the bashing also stole Mr Henson’s shoes, while another, after initially running away, returned and stole Mr Henson’s shoulder bag as he lay motionless.

Mr Henson suffered a traumatic brain injury and had to be put an induced coma after being rushed to hospital.

It is not known if he will ever fully recover.

The five teenagers were initially charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Henson, but they pleaded guilty to the lesser count of doing an act likely to endanger the health and safety of a person.

Bashing ‘chilling, vicious, callous and senseless’

Judge Wager described the assault as “chilling, vicious, callous and senseless”, saying the group had engaged in collective violence that lasted only about 30 seconds but which had changed the life of Mr Henson forever.

“There was no fighting back. It was five on one. That conduct cannot be accepted in our society,” she told the teenagers.

“Nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands, and you certainly don’t turn into a vigilante group and hurt someone so badly … they may die or have a permanent injury.

“Young people have to know there is no room for peer group pressure, for groups of people, to turn on another person.”

A close-up photo of the Churchlands school logo sign.
The teens were wearing their Churchlands school uniforms during the attack.(ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)

The teenager who instigated the violence was sentenced to 14 months in juvenile detention, another received 12 months and two others seven months.

They will have to serve half the terms before they can be released.

The fifth, who played a lesser role, received a seven-month conditional release order.

Shoes sparked assault

The court was told the bashing happened after one of the teens saw Mr Henson on a bus and suspected he was responsible for stealing the shoes of one of his friends months earlier.

The teenager’s lawyer, Annie O’Neill told the court that after seeing Mr Henson, her client was “seething with anger” and decided he was going to “get him back” for taking his friend’s shoes.

“He was going to right the perceived wrong,” she said.

Stirling train station on the Joondalup line in Perth during the daytime with trains stopped either side of the platform.
Mr Henson was attacked as he walked along the platform at Stirling train station.(Wikipedia Commons: Shinjiman)

Ms O’Neill said her client was the one who formed the intent to harm Mr Henson, but she submitted that he had not intended to inflict as much damage as he did, and that he and his mother, were now “shocked and saddened” by what had happened.

‘Peer pressure’ facilitated attack

The lawyer for one of the other teenagers, Anthony Eyers, said the CCTV footage spoke for itself and by “any view”, what happened was “cowardly and sickening”.

He said his client — who inflicted one kick on Mr Henson — stayed with the group during the attack, despite knowing he should not have.

“It is an example of the appalling power of peer pressure and how difficult it is for young men in particular to withdraw from what they know is wrong,” Mr Eyers said.

A sign reading Churchlands Senior High School on the edge of the school site.
The five teenagers were students at Churchlands Senior High School.(ABC News: Kearyn Cox)

Lawyer David Manera, whose client kicked Mr Henson twice in the head, said the teenager was normally a “gentle, shy person” and he was now shocked by his behaviour.

It was accepted that one of the teens, who stomped on Mr Henson’s leg, had played a lesser role with his lawyer, Andrew Williams, saying his client was reluctant to be involved, but had succumbed to peer pressure.

The lawyer for the fifth teen, Natasha Stewart, urged Judge Julie Wager, to impose a non-custodial sentence on her client, saying it was in the interests of his rehabilitation.

However, state prosecutor Katie Goddard-Borger urged Judge Wager to impose sentences of juvenile detention on all of the teenagers.

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