Opinion: Disheartening

POSTED: 09/23/11 12:37 PM

With all the violence that is happening around us like murder and violent armed robberies with disastrous consequences it was disheartening to witness a defendant in the Court in First Instance yesterday who seems to be at the beginning of a troubled criminal career.
The young man, who just turned eighteen in April, was sentenced in January to an 18-month conditional prison sentence for stabbing a fellow-student during a fight in 2009, and for a burglary he committed last year in August. The court also sentenced the youngster to 240 hours of community service.
But guess what. Six weeks after this conviction he was involved in yet another burglary. Yesterday he sat in court, young and angry, mumbling as most young defendants do, and apparently lacking a basic understanding of the trouble he is causing for himself.
Not only did he almost immediately continue with a criminal career, he also failed to even start doing his community service. Normally this should result in executing the conditional prison sentence. In other words, the youngster should have been locked up for 18 months.
The prosecution saved him that fate for the time being by postponing the case until February of next year. That will give the young man the time to show that he has really cleaned up his act. By then he must also have done his community service.
We’re all for giving young people that extra opportunity to straighten themselves out and to change their life. Unfortunately, this is a song we have heard a few times too often in court from especially young people who are looking at serious time behind bars: I want to change my life. Or: I want to get on with my life – this from a defendant who killed somebody in an attack of uncontrolled rage.
Yesterday’s defendant did not kill anybody, but he deserves no credit for this. The student he stabbed in the stomach in 2009, barely survived, and the young man has nothing to complain about with the conditional sentence he received in January.
The young man’s attitude in court promises no good for the future. You are wrong, he told the prosecutor at a certain moment when he was called on the way he handled his life. But when he was asked to explain himself, he had nothing more to say – in other words, he was sulking like a kid that just got robbed of its favorite toy.
The kid, who became an “adult” according to the calendar in April, will return to court on February 22 of next year.
What are the chances that he will have done his community service by then? What are the chances that he will not have committed another crime?
Those chances are slim at best and non-existent in a worst case scenario. When everything goes wrong, the youngster will get a one-way ticket to Pointe Blanche next year and from there on, his life will further fall apart. That’s a sad conclusion, and we challenge the belligerent youngster to prove us wrong – for his own good.

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