Runaway boy gets 24-hour sentence

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A runaway schoolboy who flew 7,000 miles to Malaysia using his father's passport was ordered yesterday to go to an attendance centre for 24 hours. The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was also given a 12 month conditional discharge.

He admitted eight offences at Harrow Youth Court, four of theft, two of forgery and one each of deception and handling. Imposing the sentences, the chairman of the bench, Nevile Robinson, said that the attendance centre order was for the Malaysia trip offences and the conditional discharge for the other four.

Anthony Swift, prosecuting, told the court that the 14-year-old boy's parents, who live in Harrow, Middlesex, reported their son to the police on 22 March after discovering a key to a security cabinet had been copied.

Mr Swift said it appeared the boy had taken his father's credit card and passport, bought a pounds 499 ticket and boarded a flight to Malaysia on 21 February, having altered the passport. From Kuala Lumpur he journeyed 200 miles to Jahore Bahru where he tried to check into the Puteri Pan Pacific Hotel. He had become the subject of a search involving Interpol and was returned to the UK.

Four days before his disappearance he had been discovered by police at the airport waiting for a flight to Paris. He had used his father's credit card to obtain French francs, but no action was taken, said Mr Swift. About a month later his parents went to the police after discovering he had a key to the security cabinet.

Mr Swift said the boy's father had searched his room and found a cash box containing cheques belonging to someone else. He said compensation of pounds 635.89 was being asked for by Barclays Bank who had agreed not to take the money out of the father's account. But the magistrates refused to grant the order, with Mr Robinson adding: "It would be unreasonable to make the parents pay."