Pubdate: Sat, 04 Nov 2006
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2006 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Mike McIntyre, Bruce Owen


Parents Take Responsible Action on Lawbreaking Kids

THE issue of parental responsibility was front and centre in a 
Winnipeg courtroom this week when three separate families earned 
applause for the unique way they handled their criminal kids.

Provincial court Judge Ron Meyers told the Free Press he was stunned 
by the tough love and proactive approach taken by the loving clans 
who found themselves dealing with a major problem.

The cases -- heard back-to-back-to-back on a youth docket that turned 
out to be anything but routine -- come in the wake of several recent 
high-profile cases involving troublesome teens.

Those cases include the Oct. 21 beating death of Audrey Cooper in the 
city's West End. Four teens ages 12 to 15 have been charged with 
second-degree murder. Other cases involve car thefts and arsons, one 
in which a 14-year-old disabled boy was locked in a burning shed by a 
group of children.

Many people have questioned the role of the parents in each of these 
events, saying they have to be held more accountable for the actions 
of their children.

Meyers said Friday it's encouraging to see families take such a 
vigilant role in their children's lives and stick by them when 
they're in trouble. "It was remarkable," he said. "I hadn't seen 
anything quite like it in my 29 years on the bench."


It was a shocking discovery that triggered an agonizing decision.

But they knew it had to be done.

After find a collection of marijuana, pipes and a weigh scale hidden 
in their 16-year-old son's bedroom in their south Winnipeg home this 
past September, the teen's parents called police with an explicit request.

Come and take our son to jail, they pleaded. Then, after the police 
had left and the boy's lawyer said he could immediately get him out 
on bail, the parents spoke up again.

Keep him locked up, they said.

And so the teen sat, for three long nights, in custody at the 
Manitoba Youth Centre.

"We put our foot down because we don't believe in marijuana or drugs. 
This really bothered us when it happened and we wanted to nip it in 
the bud. That's why we called the police and had him arrested," the 
boy's father told youth court this week.

The dad, who works as a hotel manager, says he wanted his son to 
spend a short stint in jail, "to show this isn't a joke anymore."

"He told me there has to be some meaningful consequences for my son," 
said defence lawyer Jackson Mugerwa.

The teen, a Grade 11 student with no prior criminal involvement, 
pleaded guilty to possession of 12 grams of pot and was given a 
conditional discharge by Meyers that will give him a second chance at 
not being saddled with a criminal record.

The judge said he was swayed by the obvious support the young man has 
in his life and is confident he is in good hands.

"There's so few times parents come forward in this manner and 
recognize the criminality of their children. The court is grateful 
for this," said Meyers. The dad said they have imposed a nightly 
curfew on their son that is strictly enforced, drive him to school 
and his part-time job to ensure he doesn't stray and routinely 
monitor his behaviour and contacts.

"We're keeping a close eye on him, watching over his room, what he's 
bringing into the house. It's going to take a long time for him to 
earn our trust back," said the father.

The youth offered an apology in court this week, prompting an 
interesting exchange with Meyers.

"Who are you apologizing to?" asked the judge.

"To the court," said the teen.

"Why would you apologize to me? You owe an apology to your family, to 
your friends, to people who have stood with you. If you're into 
drugs, stop it now or you're going to run the risk of doing some 
heavy time," said Meyers.

Any future problems would immediately be addressed in the same 
"zero-tolerance" fashion, the father promised.


As a Winnipeg school official, he's well aware of the many challenges 
facing teens today.

But never did he imagine being forced to confront such a difficult 
issue at home.

Yet that's exactly what happened when the east Winnipeg resident 
stumbled across a mysterious box in his 16-year-old son's bedroom last January.

The contents were shocking.

At least 44 ecstasy pills. Several Tylenol 3s. A small quantity of 
marijuana. And a white, powdery substance police later said was cocaine.

How could this happen?

The father, along with his wife, didn't hesitate about their next move.

And they watched with shock, and sadness, as their boy was carted 
away by police and eventually placed in a drug treatment centre. It 
was his first-ever brush with the law. Now, some 10 months later, 
there's a remarkable "180-degree" turnaround, court was told this 
week. He's completed his rehabilitation, kicked his ugly habit and 
now recognizes the error of his ways.

"I'm sorry for letting everyone down," said the teen, who pleaded 
guilty to possession of the drugs and was given two years of 
supervised probation. Meyers said a discharge wasn't up for 
consideration because of the "hard" drugs involved.

"You've got to be stupid. I'll tell you why. I can understand if you 
had a family that didn't give a damn about you. But to push the 
envelope when you've got a family that is concerned and responsible; 
I think that's stupid on your part," said Meyers.

"You've got a long way to go before you're as smart as your parents. 
And I want to thank (the parents) for the steps they have taken."

The father told court he's keeping his son on a "tight leash" but 
feels he's learned there will be consequences for his actions.

"Don't try this again," Meyers warned. "Jails are full of guys who 
deal in drugs. Their lives are ruined."

The father declined to be interviewed by the Free Press Friday, 
saying, "I didn't do this for personal glory."


Don't Mess With My Son.

That's the message an angry North End mother delivered to a 
neighbourhood drug dealer after learning his latest victim was her 
17-year-old son.

The Grade 12 student, who had never been in legal trouble before, was 
suddenly facing a serious criminal charge after police caught him in 
possession of cocaine during a spot-check last summer.

His arrest came as a shock to the boy's mother, father, two siblings 
and grandparents, who were all part of a devoted and caring family 
that had managed to fight off some of the negative outside influences 
that come with growing up in a community where crime is rampant.

The teen pleaded guilty this week, admitting he succumbed to peer 
pressures and began experimenting with the highly addictive drug.

His mother then took steps to ensure it wouldn't happen again, court was told.

"His mother has had a stern discussion with the dealer. She asked him 
how he'd like it if she went around passing such an addictive 
substance to his family and friends," said defence lawyer Don Mokriy.

The dealer apparently got the message -- or perhaps headed for 
greener pastures -- as he is now living in Calgary and no longer a 
negative influence on the woman's son, he said. Meyers gave the teen 
a conditional discharge, allowing him a second chance to maintain a 
clear criminal record.

"What was going through your head?" Meyers asked the teen, who was 
accompanied in court by his mother.

"It was stupid. I wasn't thinking," he replied.

"You come from a responsible family and you kick them in the teeth 
with this kind of episode. Forcing a mother to attend court to watch 
her son plead guilty to an offence, suffer the embarrassment. You 
can't think much of your mom," said Meyers.

"I do," said the teen.

"Well, you're playing with dynamite now," said Meyers.
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