Case of 17-year-old burglar illustrates need for youth facility
Four burglaries and a theft have
put Ricardo Lionel Pars in prison for 18 months; he was 17 when he committed
the offences and still 17 when he came to Summary Court and pleaded guilty.
“Do I think he belongs in prison?
No. Do I think there is any other option? No,” Chief Magistrate Margaret
Ramsay-Hale said when she sentenced Pars on 24 March.
She and Defence Attorney John
Furniss discussed the possibility of some other way of dealing with the teen.
He had been placed on probation in October for ganja offences.
He had a supervising probation
officer and a social worker.
The new offences took place in
November and December.
In court, Pars handed up a letter
asking the magistrate to look from his point of view.
It would be hard to get a job as a
convict and people would look at him in a bad way, the letter said.
“Can you help me?” it asked. The
magistrate read aloud from the letter, which stated that he had been kicked out
of the house and didn’t know what to do or how to survive.
The magistrate asked why he didn’t
tell his social worker.
Mr. Furniss said Pars did tell his
social worker about needing a job, but did not tell her about being put out of
the house after his first offence.
The attorney added he would appeal
whatever sentence was imposed.
“I would like to see not having
anyone under 21 in a prison,” the magistrate commented. She said local
authorities have been looking at a programme called the Missouri Model.
“It’s really ideal for this young
man because it doesn’t lock you up in prison or leave you on the street left to
your own devices.”
The basis of the programme is
24-hour supervision, she noted, and the approach of staff members is “Eyes on,
ears on, hearts on” — a reference to being always empathetic.
In working with young offenders, she
said, she would not use the word “rehabilitate” – she would say “habilitate”
because the programme gives structure and training they never had.
The Missouri Model places males
17-21 in small groups, usually 10 to 12, and applies a rigorous group treatment
process while offering extensive individual attention.
The offenders are not isolated,
confined or left to fend for themselves.
As long as they live in the
facility they are responsible for each other.
The magistrate said she was
impressed by the fact that 90 per cent of the individuals in the Missouri
programme graduate from high school; the average in the US is 50 per cent.
As for Pars, the magistrate said
she had no doubt he needed to be off the street.
Mr. Furniss asked for a partially
suspended sentence because of the teen’s guilty pleas and age.
“Do you think his victims see him
as a child?” the magistrate asked.
“No, they see him as someone who
has put their families at risk.
I must express the victims’ hurt
and outrage that this ‘child’ would enter their home and steal.”
She noted that even where the value
of the items stolen was not great, it was significant to the owner.
In one instance Pars stole a rosary – what must its sentimental value be, she
“If he were 21, I would give him
five years,” she said.
Instead, she imposed terms of 18
months concurrent on each offence and invited Mr. Furniss to appeal.
She then spoke to Pars directly.
“Do you know how many children are
abandoned and don’t steal? How many have a hard life and don’t commit crime?”
She said he should not use his personal circumstances as an excuse to victimise
Files showed that the burglaries
took place in daylight hours when no one was home.
In one incident, Pars smashed a
window in a back door and forced open an interior door, taking a wedding band,
another ring, a rosary and TV, all to a value of $512.
The rings were recovered.
After another burglary, in which a
bathroom window was broken, residents reported a missing watch and wallet with
US$20, Ja$10 and 20 euros.
Pars told police he did search for
money but didn’t take anything.
The third burglary involved theft
of a laptop, phones, $100 in coins and two watches.
The laptop was recovered but Pars
told police the phones were set up in Spanish so he threw them in the Swamp
area of George Town.
The fourth burglary involved
breaking a window with a coconut.
A watch, knapsack and liquor were
The theft was of a bicycle from a
parking lot along West bay Road; the bike was recovered.