Sentenced to nine months’ open custody, a year’s probation
The judge had just begun handing down her sentence when she was suddenly interrupted.
“Your Honour,” defence lawyer Vanessa McCarthy said in provincial court Tuesday, “my client would like to say something before sentencing, if that’s OK.”
“Certainly,” Judge Pamela Goulding replied.
A 15-year-old girl stood up, looked at the judge and began to speak.
“I’d like to apologize to (the victim),” she said, breaking down in tears.
“I know it has had an impact on his life. I feel terrible and he did trust me.”
“If I could go back in time, I’d change all this. I’m sorry.”
As she spoke, the girl stopped several times, to sob and wipe away tears.
When she finished, Goulding nodded and continued on with the sentence.
She gave the girl a term of nine months in open custody, to be followed by 4 1/2 months of supervision in the community and one year’s probation.
Open custody is similar to house arrest for youth — they are in custody at a group home with strict conditions.
The girl — whose name is banned from publication because of her age — pleaded guilty to robbery and assault causing bodily harm.
She was the youngest of five teens who violently attacked and robbed a man with disabilities on Sept. 28, 2012.
The man had been lured to the movie theatre at Mount Pearl Square via text message by one of the other teenage girls, who had promised him a romantic prospect.
Once he got there, a few of the other teens tricked him into going into the woods, where they kicked and punched him and robbed him of money, jewelry and his smart- phone, which together were worth $1,000.
Covered in blood, the man sought help at a nearby store and was taken to hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose, cuts and abrasions.
It was revealed in court that the man has a condition similar to cerebral palsy. He is also mentally delayed. But the teens say they had no idea the man had a disability.
When police seized the girl’s phone after the incident, they saw a text message she had sent to a friend, stating, “We almost (expletive) killed the guy.”
Police also became aware of a school essay the girl had written, describing her participation in the incident.
The essay, which was read in court, stated that the event changed her life.
“I will never forget it,” she wrote. “Five people were involved and I was one of them.”
The girl went on to say she and her friends panicked when they realized police were involved.
“We didn’t know it would end up like this,” she wrote.
The girl also pleaded guilty to mischief by damaging government property.
While being taken to court for one of her scheduled appearances a few weeks after her arrest, the girl wrote her name inside the sheriff’s officers’ van.
Crown prosecutor Sheldon Steeves had recommended the nine months in open custody, pointing to the seriousness of the offence and the fact that the man was taken advantage of.
The girl’s lawyer, McCarthy, said four to six months in open custody was more appropriate.
The pre-sentence report indicated the girl has had a turbulent life and lived in supervised care away from her remaining family.
Her mother died in 2004 and her father was unable to care for her. Her grandparents had difficulty controlling her. She also has substance abuse issues, but is undergoing counselling.
McCarthy also pointed out that one of the other girls, an 18-year-old, who was 17 at the time and had been the ringleader, was also given a sentence of nine months in open custody.
She argued that her client was younger and has no prior record, like the other girl did.
But Goulding said there wasn’t much difference in the two.
While the girl showed remorse for her actions, Goulding said, so did her older co-accused. The judge pointed out that the younger girl “was an active participant in the incident.”
She said there is not that much difference in age between the two and that the 17-year-old’s prior record contained only one prior unrelated offence.
Goulding said the sentence “makes her accountable without losing sight of rehabilitation.”
Earlier in the morning, one of the other youths involved in the incident pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm.
The 17-year-old will deal with charges of robbery during sentencing, which has been scheduled for April 16.
Three other youths have yet to have their cases dealt with. They will be back in court later this month.