Youthful Exuberance

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School’s out! So hold onto your hats, folks, it’s on again.

As thousands of school-leavers descend upon Surfers Paradise for the annual ritual of revelry that has become known as Schoolies Week, thousands more parents hold their collective breath in dread and anticipation. The institutional shackles have been broken and cast aside, leaving only the unbridled celebratory passion of youth.

Every year, around this time, I invariably field a few frantic phone calls from embarrassed schoolies, and/or their outraged parents, calling for legal help to clean up the often-messy consequences of too much hard partying. Thankfully, mostly the damage is minor, and the fallout relatively short-lived.

Unfortunately, it’s not always so. Youthful inexperience and innocent exuberance, particularly when mixed with intoxicating substances, can have serious and potentially long-lasting consequences.

A few years back I acted for a young, newly-qualified doctor who was charged with a minor assault. He defended the charge, and was ultimately acquitted, but that didn’t stop medical professional regulators requiring he give them a close explanation for his behaviour, not only in relation to the unsuccessful assault charge, but also in relation to an aged conviction he had for public nuisance, dating back to his hazy, crazy behaviour during Schoolies Week, before he even began his medical studies. He had pleaded guilty to the public nuisance, and as a result for one dreadful moment, his right to practice his chosen profession was under a cloud. Extensive submissions were made and eventually, after some considerable anxiety, he was given the all clear. But that one little moment of madness, committed in the full flush of Schoolies Week merriment, most certainly came back to haunt him.

It could have been much, much worse.

Earlier this week a 17 year old found herself deep in hot water over her antics atop the 13th-storey rail-less balcony ledge of a high-rise building in Surfers Paradise. Filmed by a nearby onlooker, the intrepid young daredevil was seen handing something to a young man before casually walking along the narrow ledge and then sitting down, not much more than a metre from the towering edge.

Not surprisingly, the footage has given horrified parents conniptions, and whipped up a frenzy of outrage in the Gold Coast community, particularly given the stern and often-repeated warnings by Queensland Police about the grave risks associated with dangerous behaviour on balconies. Worse still, the young lady’s antics come in the wake of the awful death of young Hamish Bidgood, who sadly fell to his death from the balcony of a Surfers Paradise high rise building during schoolies celebrations last year, after inhaling nitrous oxide while partying with friends.

At the very least, ‘balcony-hopping’ can see young revellers face up to 12 months imprisonment for unlawfully climbing the outside of a building or structure, under the Summary Offences Act. Let’s hope their youthful exuberance doesn’t have more permanent consequences.

Jonathan Nyst

Queensland Criminal Lawyer

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