Juvenile criminals must be given the chance to break their cycle of offending before it is too late, according to a South West magistrate who voiced her views on youngsters in the legal system in court recently. Magistrate Belinda Coleman told the Busselton Children’s Court the goal of the youth justice system was rehabilitation and stopping the criminal activity of minors before they turned 18. The comments came after a 17-year-old Busselton boy appeared in the court for a string of trespassing, burglary and stealing offences including breaking into a Mandurah bottle shop with a sledgehammer to steal 10 bottles of rum. The teen, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a familiar face for Ms Coleman, pictured, who had previously placed him on multiple youth community-based orders and conditional release orders in an effort to help him get assistance for a growing drug and alcohol addiction. The court was also told the teenager was forced to leave home after the Department of Communities told his mother if he returned to the family home she would lose custody of her youngest child. In a lecture directed at the teen and wider children’s court, Ms Coleman said she had no desire to see the boy continue his destructive behaviour into adulthood, where penalties became more serious. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat here in this courtroom and have young people like you graduate to the big house,” she said. “I know you don’t like Banksia Hill (Detention Centre), there’s some issues with mental health at Banksia Hill. “The big house — and we’re talking Hakea — is far, far worse. “I’m giving you another chance because I know you’ve got the capacity to turn things around, and of course the Young Offenders Act requires me to give you another opportunity, because the whole focus is on rehabilitation. “What that means is putting you in the best position with the supports now before you turn 18 because the second you turn 18, the goalposts change and it’s more of a focus on punishment. “The whole focus is to get you back on track so you don’t go to the big house because the thing is I don’t like sending anyone to prison, I definitely don’t like sending children to Banksia Hill, so you’ve got to take this opportunity I’m giving you and run with it.” According to the Bureau of Statistics youth offending is decreasing in Australia dropping, from a youth offender rate of 3338.5 per 100,000 people aged 10-17 in the 2009-10 financial year to only 1914.3 in 2019-20. Ms Coleman’s sentiments were supported by WA Police South West Acting Supt Steve George, who said the South West team worked closely with local agencies to help young offenders change their behaviour. The young teen at the centre of the court appearance was given the opportunity of a conditional release order and given 50 hours of community service to do as punishment after the youth justice team confirmed they were willing to help the 17-year-old break his addictions with supervision and counselling.