A teenager convicted of two armed robberies at the same store was sentenced last week to eight years imprisonment.
Justice Charles Quin said he could not ignore the violent nature of the robberies and the traumatic effect the robberies had on the victims. The sentencing range would ordinarily be between 12 and 20 years, with a starting point of 16 years, for adults, he indicated. Sentencing authorities suggest an adjustment of one-half to two-thirds for a young person.
The judge took into account the defendant’s age, noting that the emotional age of a child was as important as the chronological age. He said he was also persuaded by defense attorney Keva Reid’s submission that the lack of mental health treatment at various crucial stages of the boy’s life may have exacerbated his situation, which included a dysfunctional home environment.
The defendant was 15 when he robbed a West Bay mini-mart in March and April of 2016. He turned 16 a few months later. By last Wednesday, when he was sentenced, he was 17.
Crown counsel Greg Walcolm summarized the evidence from the youth’s trial earlier this year. The youth had gone to the store, which was in his neighborhood, at night. He had watched it from across the street before going in. He wore a mask and beckoned to the clerk, showing her what appeared to be a firearm. She was in fear and handed over the money and cell phones he demanded.
When he left, the clerk called the store owner, who called police. The cash and five phones had a total value of $1,805. Fortunately, the store owner had a record of the serial numbers of the stolen phones.
The defendant was on bail for another matter and wore an electronic monitor at the time of the robbery. It showed his movements, but he claimed to have gone to the area to buy ganja.
In April, again at night and when the clerk was alone, the youth entered with a firearm and this time pointed it at the clerk. He carried a zebra-design backpack with pink zippers. By use of force or fear of force, he stole $450 and five flavored cigarette papers.
The CCTV in the store had not been working the first time, but it was working this time and images were produced.
Police received certain information and obtained a search warrant for the youth’s home. His mother was present when it was executed. Officers recovered one phone and two phone boxes: their serial numbers matched the numbers from the store. Officers also found a zebra-pattern backpack with pink zippers and a small black imitation firearm.
Mr. Walcolm said the clerk could not continue working at the store after the robbery and continued to have nightmares. The store owner, a young entrepreneur, quit her job to work at the store; she suffered severe financial loss and had to close the store two months after the second robbery.
Justice Quin commented that the small store was helping the community, but the defendant had seen fit to plan armed robberies. If anything, the second robbery was worse than the first because the youth had not only produced the gun, he had pointed it at the lady. “She must have been scared out of her wits,” he observed. “You cannot imagine the psychological harm, as well as the loss of her job.”
Mr. Walcolm said a psychological report showed that the youth suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, “something far too common among young offenders,” he commented. The youth also had very little monitoring, if any, as he came from a broken home. He associated with “the wrong kind of people,” used drugs occasionally and had partaken in the use of alcohol.
Justice Quin also referred to the pre-sentencing report and added that the boy’s father had abandoned the family when the boy was young — “something you see far too often.”
Mr. Walcolm agreed and summarized that, as a result of all that had happened, the youth has experienced significant depression and periods of unhappiness. Great effort had gone into seeking an off-island facility for him, but it was while agencies were trying to arrange something that the robberies occurred.
Ms. Reid provided further background, revealing that the defendant had been in the judicial system or referred for assistance since he was eight or nine. Things were put in place for him, but never followed through, she asserted. He was possibly neglected in his early life and definitely left without guidance in his adolescent years, she said.
When his mother realized what was happening and tried to cooperate with various agencies offering assistance, she was met with resistance from another adult in the home, Ms. Reid told the court. Efforts to get the defendant into a proper treatment center had been disheartening, she said: he was not a U.S. citizen, so he needed a visa, which was denied; attempts to place him in Canada were not successful; then they tried England because he was a British citizen. That didn’t work out, either.
In terms of the offending, Ms. Reid urged the court to consider that, although the youth had produced a weapon and threatened the clerk with it, in fact no harm had been inflicted.
She suggested that the owner of the store could have hired someone else instead of quitting her job to work in the store. Justice Quin remarked that there wasn’t a queue of persons wanting to go to work in a place that was robbed on a regular basis.
He agreed that the defendant had had a deeply sad and tragic life. “But [he] cannot go around with an imitation firearm robbing small businesses, particularly when they are neighbors who are actually helping the community,” he said.
Justice Quin said eight years was half the starting point for offenses of this seriousness and was “really the most lenient sentence I can possibly impose in all the circumstances.”