Teenage robber 'high' on caffeine

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 12:00am

A teenage boy who drove 300km to rob a supermarket at knifepoint may have been delirious on the energy drink Red Bull, of which he drank more than 10 cans a day.

Psychiatric and medical evidence suggested the 17-year-old may have been suffering caffeine intoxication when he held up the supermarket wearing a balaclava and armed with a butterfly knife.

In May, he drove from his Darwin home, in the Northern Territory, south to the town of Katherine, where he committed the robbery.

The Northern Territory Supreme Court was told the boy, who cannot be identified, was a conscientious school student with two part-time jobs, who also found time for volunteer community work.

He was drinking up to 11 cans of Red Bull a day before the robbery - more than twice the caffeine required to cause significant toxic effects, the court heard.

Caffeine intoxication may have altered the boy's state 'such that his judgment was impaired and he performed this robbery in the context of experiencing delirium', a psychiatrist's report said.

'It appears there was a blurring between fantasy and reality, perhaps induced by caffeine and chronic sleep deprivation. Since committing this crime, I've noticed the change in his ability to think rationally and he sleeps well,' the report said.

But the judge hearing the case, Mr Justice Steven Bailey, said the possibility of caffeine intoxication might explain, but did not excuse, the crime.

He released the boy, who pleaded guilty, with a four-year suspended prison sentence.

Mr Justice Bailey said medical and psychiatric reports fell well short of establishing a causal link between caffeine intoxication and the robbery.

'Their speculative nature precludes acceptance of them as substantial mitigation,' the judge said.