Jail steals teen's smile
TEENAGER Brad Gillis is slowly waking from the nightmare that saw him jailed for a violent crime he had nothing to do with.
To his family, Brad was the happy-go-lucky teenager facing life with a smile.
However, after five months behind bars with some of Queensland's most violent criminals, that smile is gone.
He can't work and is undergoing psychological counselling to help put the trauma behind him and get his life back.
"He's a very angry young man since he came out," his mother Jodi Gillis said.
"He was a typical teenager, he always had a smile, but now he is angry and paranoid."
Brad's nightmare started in May, 2010, when police arrested him for an Oakey home invasion.
A group of youths had broken into a Cooper Av home in the early hours of May 23 and assaulted the couple, the husband suffering a badly broken arm after being struck with a samurai sword as he fought back.
Some teenagers police questioned about the incident nominated Brad who knew nothing about the matter until police arrived at his workplace in Toowoomba days later.
Unlike every other state in Australia where a 17-year-old is considered a juvenile and afforded a range of protections, in Queensland a 17-year-old, as Brad was, is an adult.
In every other state Brad would have had to have had a parent or guardian with him before police could interview him.
Not in Queensland.
He claims he was badgered by police until he agreed to confess to being involved in the crime.
"I told them (police) I wasn't there when they first spoke to me," Brad said.
"They told me the others had said I was there and that I had hit those people."
Upset and at times crying during the interrogation, Brad said the police told him that if he "co-operated" he would be granted bail that afternoon and probably cop a $600 fine.
"I told them I had to go to work," Brad said. "I just wanted to get out of there."
After about four hours, Brad agreed to tape a "confession" during which he put forward "facts" he had heard from police.
He retracted the confession later that day when he realised he was in deeper trouble than he had been led to believe. The confession would ultimately hang him at his trial.
Found guilty, Brad was sentenced to four years jail.
Because he was 18 by then, he was sent straight to an adult prison where he rubbed shoulders with some of the hardest criminals in the state.
He witnessed a stabbing the first week.
The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial, but the prosecution this week withdrew all charges.
Brad finds it difficult to talk about his prison experience and, despite the trauma he has endured and the enormous emotional and financial cost to his family, they are not entitled to any compensation.
For the moment, Jodi and Dean Gillis are just grateful to have their son home.
However, they know it may be some time before that smile returns to his face.