A 14-year-old who has been in and out of custody for much of his youth had a surprising request for his sentencing judge on Thursday.
The teen, who had pleaded guilty to robbery and failing to comply with court conditions, asked to be locked up for 10 months — four months longer than the sentence his lawyer had pitched to the judge.
“I wish I had more time to finish,” the Maskwacis youth told Red Deer provincial court Judge Jim Glass, explaining that he was going to school while in custody.
“I know when I get out I’m not going to be very good at staying out of trouble. I was wondering if I could get 10 months,” he said from the Edmonton Young Offender Centre through a closed-circuit TV link.
Crown prosecutor Brittany Ashmore had suggested eight months of closed custody, four months of supervision and 12 months of probation.
She pointed to an “uneviable record,” including convictions for careless use of a firearm, pointing a firearm, assault and other charges.
Glass seemed to agree that time spent in the Young Offender Centre was as beneficial as punitive.
“It appears he does flourish somewhat in the institutional setting at this point,” he said.
Glass sentenced the youth, whose name is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to six months in closed custody and three months of supervision. He will also be on probation for 12 months.
The youth had earlier pleaded guilty to robbery and failing to comply with court-imposed conditions.
He and another youth had gone into a Red Deer liquor store in late February to shoplift some liquor.
They grabbed two bottles of Grey Goose Vodka and when confronted by a store clerk the teen appearing in court on Thursday pulled out a small paring knife. One demanded cash but they did not get any before they fled.
One youth was picked up during a traffic stop in Maskwacis. The young robber at the centre of Thursday’s court proceedings was not in the car but was arrested soon after and has been in custody since Feb. 25.
Defence lawyer Michael Scrase said in his dealings with his young client he found him friendly and polite and he comes across as a “smart young man.”
But he seems like two different people depending on whether he’s in custody or out, Scrase said.
The youth told the parole employee working on his pre-sentence report for the judge that he had difficult seeing the long-term consequences of his actions.
Fetal alcohol syndrome may be involved but it was unclear if he had ever been checked. The judge recommended that assessment be made while the teen was in custody.
While the youth may have been the victim of a bad childhood, he was not the victim of a robbery.
Three women who were in the store when it was robbed told the court how the crime had changed their lives through their victim impact statements.
One said after the robbery she had trouble sleeping and was afraid to be alone. She was given counselling arranged by her company and her doctor prescribed medication.
Another said she was afraid to work alone.
“I am scared if they are released they will come back for vengeance,” she wrote in her statement read by the Crown prosecutor.
The other also feared working alone, had trouble sleeping and worried that the robbers may return.
Given the seriousness of the crime, the judge ordered that a DNA sample be taken for a national database and that the teen be banned for life from having weapons. He also approved an order for Child and Family Services to get involved.