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7 July, 2021

Locals rally behind family

IT’S been an extremely tough few days within the Mareeba community, none more so for Performance Motors owners Kevin and Lucy Dunn, whose business was destroyed by a fire.

By Michael Warren

Lucy and Kevin Dunn’s business, Performance Motors and Mareeba Yamaha, was subject to a devastating fi re that guttered their workshop. Detectives charged four juvenile girls just hours after the incident with arson.

IT’S been an extremely tough few days within the Mareeba community, none more so for Performance Motors owners Kevin and Lucy Dunn, whose business was destroyed by a fire. 

As the community continues to rally behind Mr and Mrs Dunn, Express journalist Michael Warren examined different aspects of the matter in this special Express report. 

This latest incident comes after an Express newspaper investigation titled ‘Enough is Enough’, was published just days ago about juvenile and youth offending across the region.

The investigation 

A leading Tablelands detective investigating a fire that caused around $2M damage and completely guttered a local mechanics workshop has confirmed early community speculation that the devastating blaze looks to have been deliberately lit. 

Detective Senior Sergeant and Officer-in-Charge of The Tablelands CIB Brett Devine suggested preliminary evidence indicated the Mareeba Yamaha and Performance Motors workshop fire may have started after a pile of tyres were set alight causing the fi re to escalate and spread right throughout the Railway Ave building. 

The Express understands a newspaper taken from a nearby truck was lit and placed amongst the tyres which proved the catalyst of the blaze. Within 12 hours of the incident excellent detective work ensured several quick arrests were made in relation to the case. 

The Express understands the alleged offenders were already previously known to police and local detectives. 

“Our early investigations have revealed that (the tyres) could have been an initial ignition point,” Mr Devine exclusively told The Express. “

The site has been scientifically examined and we await the results of that examination. 

“We’re confident we’ve located, charged and arrested the four principle off enders in this matter. 

“Four juvenile females, including three 12 year-old girls, and one 14 year-old female have each been charged with arson. “That’s where it sits at the minute, however we’ll have days and days of follow-up and there could well be more charges.”

 The determined detective said he remains in disbelief about the severity of the crime. 

“It’s hard to fathom what would go through a child’s mind to make them want to potentially light a fire next to a business, it’s just crazy criminal type behavior,” he said. 

“It just makes me wonder, once again, what are and were the parents doing?”.

 As it stands local police have confirmed a 14 year-old female and two 12 year-old girls were were due to face Mareeba Childrens' Court two days ago, on July 5. 

A remaining 12 year-old girl was denied bail and was also due to appear at the Childrens’ court over the past few days. 

The Senior Sergeant respectfully chose not to comment when asked if the alleged offenders showed any remorse, or regret, when under questioning. 

Seven cars were destroyed in the fire, along with motorbike units and quads. Local State and Federal MPs passed on their best wishes to the Dunn family. 

“I am truly sorry to hear about this fi re which destroyed a significant part of Performance Motors premises,” Cook MP Cynthia Lui said. 

“My sincere sympathies to Kevin and Lucy Dunn and their team. 

“I extend my thanks to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews who got the fire under control.” 

“My thoughts are with the Dunn’s who lost $2M in the recent fi re at their Mareeba business,” Kennedy MP Bob Katter said. “There is an answer to the troubling youth crime issue, which is relocation sentencing. 

“Send the kids west to a relocation sentencing facility to learn skills like building, brick laying, cooking and horse riding and they will return to society and be able to contribute.” 

Meanwhile Member for Hill Shane Knuth said he was gutted when he learned about the impacts of the fire. 

“This is going to the next level for juvenile crime, this is now not just about theft, but it has escalated to arson,” Mr Knuth said. 

“This should be a wake-up call for the State Government to stop listening to the do-gooders and pay attention to those businesses, families and individuals who have suffered as a result of juvenile crime and to those who believe they will be next. “

The Government needs to adopt a breach of bail as an offence and revoke the clause that a youth off ender should be detained in custody for an offence as a last resort and most importantly introduce relocation sentencing that sends them out to remote locations, putting them to work and teaching them values and respect.” 

In the days since the incident Mareeba Yamaha have temporarily relocated their business to 8 Costin St or Blakey’s Brakes workshop. 

The Dunn family also made a recent public statement to address the matter. “Both Kevin and myself would like to thank you all for the kind words, support and well wishes,” Lucy Dunn said. 

“As you can all imagine we are all still feeling very numb shattered and devastated to say the least. 

“We will take one day at a time because that’s all we can do. 

“A heartfelt thanks to you all but we especially would like to thank all that were there to help and of course offer their help in the tough task to relocate the little that we were able to salvage and protect from our front showroom. 

“We are beyond words. Family, friends and local people and especially local businesses support each other, that is who we Mareeba people are. Thank you.” 

Police investigations continue into the matter.

 Penalties handed down to juvenile arson offenders 

To gain a measured and considered understanding of the types of penalties or punishments juvenile offenders face when found guilty of committing arson related crimes The Express sought the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council as a balanced point of reference. 

A publicly assessable but dated brochure issued by the Advisory Council notes that between 2005-06 to 2017-18 (21.9%) of juveniles that committed arson type crimes were sentenced as a child under the youth justice act 1992. 

More specifically the most common penalties juvenile arson offenders received during this period included probation (108), community service (75), conditional release order (53), detention (35), court ordered conference (9), reprimand (6), good behavior (1) intensive supervision order, (1) convicted, not further punished.

The Express reached out for more broader comment about matters relating to juveniles committing arson type crimes, however a spokesperson from the Advisory Council respectfully chose not to make any formal on the record comment.

 Community reaction 

As mentioned, just days ago The Express published a two-page spread about juvenile and youth off ending across the Tablelands. 

That special report covered the Tablelands youth crime epidemic, the complex nature of juvenile off ending, community sentiment and reaction to the issue, and potential solutions. 

Now, here we are just days later, with a highly respected and hardworking couple’s business now destroyed because of further youth driven crime. In the days since the incident, the Mareeba community’s reaction has been swift, stern, and straight to the point. 

Once again locals have been very clear on how they believe juvenile and youth off ending should be treated and managed across The Tablelands. 

Some of the Mareeba community’s potential touted solutions include: an enforced youth curfew during the night; for example, no youths on the streets after 10pm, increased parent accountability, jail time, a wholistic approach from prevention to consequence, increased involvement from Child Safety, an investigation into local juvenile anti-social behaviour, increased elders input and community service penalties and punishments. 

Lastly, the immediate convening of a public meeting where local community members can voice their concerns about juvenile and youth off ending to mayor Angela Toppin and State MPs. 

Mayor Toppin echoed the community’s collective disgust about the incident. 

“Council is aware that the community is growing tired of ongoing thefts, damage and graffiti occurring and the recent act of arson was a shocking incident that has only increased the calls for more to be done about youth crime,” Ms Toppin told The Express. 

“Our thoughts are with Kevin and Lucy Dunn who are valued members of the community and dedicated business owners, and their employees, all of who are suffering a heartbreaking loss through no fault of their own. 

“The crime committed at Performance Motors was a disgraceful act and a devastating blow to a local business at a time when uncertainty already exists due to the impacts of COVID. 

“Council is disappointed at this latest incident of youth crime and can understand the community's desire for more to be done to address such antisocial behaviour. 

“Council will continue to strongly advocate to the State Government for more to be done to address the issue of youth crime, including the need for a multi-agency approach, and supports the eff orts of police and the judicial system to deter crime. 

“It is not within Council's jurisdiction to directly deal with crime, but we will always support interagency efforts to prevent juvenile and youth crime, and programs to provide young people with a sense of purpose and belong within the community.

 “Council is willing to lend its resources to help be part of the community solution to problems raised by youth crime and to advocate the State Government for solutions via its various responsible agencies.”

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