Young cell phone robber placed under supervision

POSTED: 05/10/12 4:03 PM

St. Maarten – A young man with an apparent love for cell phones got what was coming to him in the Court in First Instance yesterday afternoon: a 1-year suspended prison sentence, supervision by the Court of Guardianship and 240 hours of community service.

The youngster, who will see his seventeenth birthday in June of this year, was accused of robbing people of their cell phones on four different occasions between December 5 of last year and March 23. For every charge, the youngster had a glib explanation. Unfortunately for him, the head of the customs department Anthony Doran witnessed one of the robberies.

“The defendant finds it difficult to acknowledge that what he did was wrong,” prosecutor mr. Bart den Hartigh concluded. “That is a reason for concern. If you take stuff from people and then think that there is nothing wrong with it, you run the risk that you will do it again in the future.”

However, the prosecutor noted that the young defendant is a boy with serious problems and that the best way to prevent a repeat is to solve those. This is why he demanded supervision by the Court of Guardianship, which could include orders to follow programs at the Victorious Living Foundation as well as psychiatric and psychological treatment.

Attorney mr. Geert Hatzmann had no argument with the prosecution about the demand for intensive supervision. “But there should also be attention for the blot on his file. How is it possible that the international treaty for the rights of the child have been ignored? My client spent 29 days in a police cell.”

Hatzmann said that St. Maarten’s state regulation explicitly states that minors cannot be locked up with adults, and that exceptions to this rule are not allowed. “Because we don’t have a youth detention facility these minors are for lack of a better solution at the police station. If I had not sounded the alarm, he would have been there until the trial – for 41 days, while adults are allowed to be locked up at the police station for a maximum of ten days. It is embarrassing.”

Hatzmann said that the government had made halfhearted attempts to find a solution. “But the system has been rife with these youngsters for years. The government has had plenty of time to find a solution, but it has not done this. That calls for a very harsh reaction. It is up to the competent authorities to do something but my client should not become the victim of this situation.”

Hatzmann asked the court to mitigate the hours of community service and to drop the demand for a conditional prison sentence altogether.

Prosecutor den Hartigh persisted in his demand but said that he wholeheartedly supports the drive for the establishment of a youth detention center.

Judge mr. Monique Keppels considered the charges proven; though she heard the attorney’s arguments, she followed the prosecutor’s demand. “It is a fitting proposal, because these are serious charges,” she concluded.

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