Teen arrested after spanner attack on 14-year-old with autism

Simone Fox Koob

A 15-year-old boy has been arrested in relation to an attack on a teenager with autism who was beaten with spanners outside a Melbourne high school.

Police are investigating the assault on Quinn Lahiff-Jenkins, 14, after video footage emerged of him being pinned to the ground and repeatedly punched in the head outside Northcote High School on Tuesday afternoon.

The investigation is ongoing, police say, and they are yet to speak to anyone else involved in relation to the incident.

Northcote High School principal Susan Harrap said on Thursday afternoon that some of the attackers appeared to be students from her school.

"This is an awful attack, and some of those involved appear to be our students. It’s upset me and the school community," Ms Harrap said.

“We reported it to police and we’ll continue to do whatever we can to help them with their investigation.

"I’m meeting with the families of those involved to get to the bottom of what happened and appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken by the end of the day," she said.

Ms Harrap said she had spoken to officials at Fitzroy High School, where Quinn attends school, and would offer to support the family.

“I’ll be speaking to students about the incident today to make clear that this type of behaviour is unacceptable and to make sure anyone who is upset gets support," she said.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said the behaviour was "totally unacceptable".

“Northcote High School reported the incident to police and we’ll work with them and Fitzroy High School to assist the police," he said.

Victoria Police confirmed they were investigating an assault on a teenager outside the school, which happened about 3.45pm on Tuesday.

"Investigators have been told a boy was assaulted by a group of teenagers," a spokeswoman said. "The teen suffered bruising to his face and legs."

Paramedics were called to the scene at 4pm and took the teenager to the Austin hospital.

Video footage of the incident obtained by News Corp shows the teenager being grabbed by his shirt and pulled violently off his bike. He is then pinned to the ground while lying on his back as a boy repeatedly punches him in the head.

The footage appears to show several boys holding large silver-coloured spanners, which they repeatedly swing at Quinn during the incident, hitting him in the legs and back.

At one stage, a bystander attempts to intervene but he is also attacked with a spanner.

Later in the video, Quinn is pushed violently to the ground and kicked in the head.

“You got a problem? You got a problem?” one of the assailants can be heard saying.

Quinn's mother, Carmen Lahiff-Jenkins, told 3AW radio on Thursday morning that her son was recovering after the attack.

"Quinn was flipped off his bike and beaten with spanners, kicked, punched and hounded around Northcote tram stop," she said.

"It’s an incredible level of violence, certainly I would never have expected it. It's [mine] and my husband's worst nightmare, and I know it's the worst nightmare of most parents who have an autistic child," she said.

The group had allegedly bullied Quinn and his friend on social media, and forced him to meet them outside Northcote High School on Tuesday afternoon.

"Quinn is a very loyal friend and very justice-driven so he contacted these kids on social media, and said, 'Look, you are bullying my friend, I don't like you, you are a bad person', teenage language, that sort of thing," Ms Lahiff-Jenkins said.

"Then the children rang him and said come down to the school, we want to meet outside the front of Northcote High School and if you don't come down we are going to come to your house and rape your mother."

Ms Lahiff-Jenkins said the footage was taken by one of Quinn's friends who was at the tram stop and felt she should document the incident so she could provide the footage to police.

She learnt of the attack when her son called her from the back of an ambulance.

"You put your child out into the world. You can't keep them in your house just because they are autistic, you want them to be able to experience the world like everyone else, and they go out into the community and they are not safe," Ms Lahiff-Jenkins said.

"No adults stopped to help, no-one beeped their horns or did anything from their cars.

"You hope people in the community step up for other people. You hope other people will step up and that's not happened."

She urged parents to talk to their children more about the way they speak and their behaviour.

"We have a problem in society we need to address. I feel very sorry for the parents of this kid because now they have to deal with something which I'm sure will really shock them."

Quinn had only recently entered the mainstream school system after attending a school catering for children with special needs.

"It's his mental health we are really worried about now," said Ms Lahiff-Jenkins.

"He was confident about going out in the world, as all 14-year-old boys are, very cocky, as a privileged young man he has the world at his fingertips, so I think he's pretty shocked.

“He didn't set up a fight or intend to have this situation happen, it just happened. And he feels a bit disempowered. He initially was incredibly shocked someone would hurt him like that. He doesn't live a life of violence, he hasn't been exposed to much violence.

"He was very surprised anyone would respond this way or treat him like this," she said.

Premier Daniel Andrews condemned the behaviour and said it was a "terrible incident".

"As I understand it, the school has taken this matter very seriously, as they should," he said.

"As bad as this incident was, as difficult as it is to comprehend, it's one of a very small number of incidents that we see across our schools."

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said it was "one of the most distressing images" he had seen all year.

"It's absolutely disgraceful and the police should get involved. My heart goes out to the little boy, to his family. It is an absolute disgrace," he said.

"Those children's behaviour is appalling and now the Education Department, those thug's parents and indeed the police all need to come together to solve this because that is obscene behaviour against an innocent kid."

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton confirmed police were investigating.

"I watched that myself and [it's] really just disgusting behaviour against this young fella," he told ABC Radio.

from https://www.theage.com.au/national/victo...