Pubdate: Fri, 06 Jun 2003
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2003 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


Three months in custody is needed for a 15-year-old girl convicted of
selling one marijuana cigarette to her cousin on the walk to school, a
Crown prosecutor argued in court this week.

Territorial court Judge John Faulkner rejected that suggestion for the
girl, who had no criminal record until Wednesday afternoon. He instead
handed her eight months' probation for the trafficking conviction.

Fourteen at the time, the girl was convicted after a 20-minute trial
in early February for selling the joint on the way to school last
September as they neared Selkirk Elementary School on the way to F.H.
Collins Secondary.

Her 14-year-old cousin testified that he paid $10 for the marijuana,
though he told the court he didn't really want to buy it. He gave it
to a friend, who later passed out in class after smoking it, alerting
F.H. Collins officials that something was wrong.

The boy was arrested, but never charged.

The teenaged girl failed to show up three times for her sentencing. A
charge of failing to show up for court was stayed in return for her
irresponsible handling of her charge being held as an aggravating
factor. She was finally arrested last Friday evening and kept in custody.

As well, noted prosecutor Kevin Drolet, legislation mandates that
selling drugs at or near a school is an aggravating factor when cases
get to sentencing.

This young person knows all too well the destructive effects of drugs,
said Drolet, noting the girl's parents both have substance abuse
problems and that she was raised in a violent home.

The 15-year-old, who's overdosed in the past, has drug addictions
herself, the court heard. She doesn't go to school, has no job
experience and took herself out of treatment. The teen has spent much
of the last several years in state care.

Drolet suggested the teen spend three months in open custody, served
under line-of-sight supervision in a foster home, followed by nine
months of probation.

But defence counsel Gord Coffin noted under the new Youth Criminal
Justice Act, a youth must have failed to comply with non-jail
sentences in the past and have a history of being found guilty after
being charged.

With no prior record, this simply isn't the case, he said. The only
category the girl could possibly fit in is one that involves cases
with so many aggravating features that jail is the only answer, he

Coffin argued that a young person selling to a peer near a school is
not as bad as an adult selling to school children.

Faulkner agreed selling drugs near school property makes a case worse.
However, he noted the new legislation that came into being in April
governing young offenders "changes the landscape significantly with
respect" to youth, and jail is to be used as a last resort.

There's nothing so unusual about her case that makes jail necessary,
he indicated.

As well, said Faulkner, "this is a young person who is not so much a
criminal as a person in serious need of guidance and assistance as a
result of her very chaotic and unstructured upbringing."

Under her probation order, the teen must live with her aunt, who's
been a support source since childhood, and abide by her aunt's house

She's under a 10 p.m.-curfew and must take any educational programs,
treatment, counselling and assessments, including a psychological
assessment, her youth worker directs.

Her youth worker also may direct her to participate in a
reconciliation conference with F.H. Collins and complete any
recommendations that come out of that meeting. Otherwise, she's not
allowed near her former school. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake