Five teenagers charged with murdering 15-year-old Solomone Taufeulungaki have been granted bail and told they must follow strict conditions – including a curfew and a social media ban – in the two years before their trial.
Solomone, 15, was stabbed to death on June 16 outside the Brimbank Shopping Centre in Deer Park.
Police have charged a total of 11 people with murder over his death, including nine boys, aged 13 to 17, and two men, aged 20 and 23. The accused boys cannot be named.
Supreme Court Justice Paul Coghlan this month granted bail to five of the boys – two aged 13, one aged 14 and two 15-year-olds.
Justice Coghlan said he was leaning towards granting bail to the five boys because of their young age, the expected delay before their trial and their previous good compliance with bail.
The bail was set with a number of strict conditions.
Justice Coghlan warned the boys that they should become familiar with the rules as they will probably have to abide by them for several years.
“This process is going to be a relatively long one and you’re going to be on those conditions for something like two years, but if you don’t keep the conditions, you won’t remain on bail,” he said.
“In particular you need to understand you can’t associate with anyone else who is charged with this offence, with the exception of the brothers who can associate with one another.
“That’s where trouble will come from. If you breach that association condition, that will lead to trouble and the police won’t hesitate to bring the matter back to the court and potentially apply for revocation of your bail and I might be left in a position where I don’t have any option but to revoke bail, which you might all think is pretty undesirable in the circumstances.”
The boys are required to reside at a nominated address with a curfew and have been ordered to abstain from alcohol or drugs of dependence.
They are not allowed to leave the state of Victoria and cannot contact or associate with prosecution witnesses, including those accused of Solomone’s murder.
To address concerns about the boys’ potential involvement in gang activity, Justice Coghlan set a condition of bail which prohibits the teens from gathering in groups of more than five unless it is for school or youth justice programs.
They are also not allowed to access social media, which Justice Coghlan recognised was a “tough condition” but was necessary in the circumstances.
Last week, the prosecution opposed bail, arguing that the group had failed to demonstrate exceptional circumstances justifying their release, although prosecutor Mark Gibson, SC, conceded they faced a considerable delay before trial.
Mr Gibson also raised concerns some of the boys had previously breached bail – when they were charged with affray – by not abiding by curfews and associating with each other. One boy spent a night at his girlfriend’s house, the court heard.
Some of the accused boys were charged with affray after Solomone’s death but had the charges upgraded to murder last month.
Justice Coghlan said last week he was concerned that “gang activity” surrounded Solomone’s death.
The four other charged boys remain in youth detention.