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Victim’s mother says requirement for counselling is a ‘step in the right direction’
Standing by a concrete wall of the Avalon Mall one night last May, the 12-year-old girl appeared to cry and try to shield herself from punches.
She was surrounded by a group of girls older than her. After one gave the others an order - “On three we’re all going up to her,” and counted - the teenagers swarmed the young girl, laughing and yelling at her as they slapped and punched her repeatedly in the face and head and pushed her against the wall.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry,” the younger girl said over and over, asking the older ones if she could leave.
“You’re not sorry, you’re talking shit,” one of the teenagers yelled back.
Nearby, a group of boys yelled “Hit her harder!” and “Kick her in the face!” and “WorldStar!” — the latter a reference to a website where people post videos of violent altercations.
The video of that violent incident was played in provincial court in St. John’s Thursday afternoon as two of the 15-year-old attackers were sentenced for assaulting the young girl.
The teenagers — who cannot be named because of their age — sat in different rows of the courtroom with their parents as prosecutor Renée Coates played the video, which had been recorded on a phone by a bystander, for Judge David Orr. While the two girls appeared emotionless, their parents cried.
“This bullying is quite severe,” Coates said of the attack, adding that the 12-year-old had been the victim of a “mob mentality.”
Both girls pleaded guilty to an assault charge.
“I just want to say that I’m truly sorry and that it will never happen again. Nobody deserves that to happen to them,” one of them told the judge.
“I’m really sorry,” the other girl, alleged to be the instigator of the attack, said quickly and quietly when it was her turn to address the court.
The 12-year-old told police she had been at the mall with a friend the evening of May 3, and had gotten a drink from Starbucks before sitting down on a bench. They were approached by a group of youths, including one of the teenagers sentenced Thursday, whom she had previously been friends with. The teen asked the younger girl to come outside or she’d drag her out by the hair.
The young girl started to cry, the court heard.
“(The victim) advised police that (the older girl) told her that either way she’d be going outside, so she could do it nice or she could do it hard,” Coates said.
The girl went outside near the mall’s food court, and that’s where the older girls attacked her. Eventually, some other teenagers helped her get away.
Coates said the young victim went to the Janeway, with bumps on her head and a sore eye.
Acknowledging the two 15-year-olds are first-time offenders, Coates suggested a conditional discharge with 12-months of probation for each of them, with an order that they have no contact with the victim, that they have no contact with each other except for school reasons and that they participate in counselling, specifically for anger management and bullying.
A conditional discharge means the girls will have no criminal record if they abide by their probation order.
Defence lawyers Kim Mackay and Dan Furey agreed with the suggested sentence.
Mackay spoke of the “great deal of stigma” her client had faced as a result of the video, saying she had experienced a personal fallout.
“It was a very intense set of circumstances she found herself in,” Mackay said.
Both lawyers said their clients had felt afraid on the night in question and had remorse for their actions.
Orr accepted the sentencing submission, saying he felt the girls had taken responsibility and shown remorse for their crime, but let them know the potentially damaging impact of their actions.
“The issue that often arises when you have a situation where one person is set upon by a group of people is that it’s very, very frightening for them,” he said. “Quite apart from that, when it’s people that you know or go to school with, it’s very hurtful from a psychological point of view because of the very intense feeling of rejection that people suffer as a result of that.”
The mother of the 12-year-old told The Telegram she is satisfied with the teenagers’ sentence, particularly the order for counselling.
“Knowing that the girls who assaulted my daughter were ordered mandatory counselling for anger management and bullying, along with probation, I feel that’s a great step forward,” she said.
“Getting to the root of the problem and finding out where the behaviour stems from in order to correct it is beneficial for our future generation.”
Two other high school girls have also been charged in connection with the attack. Their cases have yet to be heard in court.