Edmonton

B.C. sentencing of Edmonton teen gang member renews family's calls for help

The recent sentencing of an Edmonton teen gang member has renewed his family's call for stronger intervention.

Family have long called for the 16-year-old to be placed in a locked facility for treatment

The latest sentencing of an Edmonton teen gang member has renewed his family's call for stronger intervention.

The teen was sentenced last week in B.C. to 60 days in custody and 20 days of community supervision after he pleaded guilty to stealing a vehicle and possessing a hatchet.

The boy and his family can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

"It is absolutely horrendous," his grandmother said in an interview. "Without the help of the social services plus the judicial system, no one's going to get anywhere and public is at risk."

The family has repeatedly warned authorities of the consequences if the teen's addiction, mental health issues and anti-social behaviour are not addressed through long-term placement in a locked facility.

Family members say they've been told by provincial officials there is no current legislation that would allow for that outcome.

The teen has more than a dozen previous convictions for crimes that included assaulting a police officer while carrying a weapon and failing to comply with sentencing conditions.

In January, the grandmother successfully begged a judge not to grant the youth bail. But his family said the teen was released within months and taken to the Hope Mission.

Stole vehicle, drove to B.C.

Last month, the boy stole a vehicle and drove to B.C., where he was arrested. With time already served, his 60-day sentence is almost up. He will soon return to Edmonton to serve out his community supervision and probation. The boy's grandmother said getting treatment will be voluntary.

"What 16-year old child who has significant brain impairments, abandoned by his mother ... and is now a patched member of a prominent gang in Edmonton is going to contact any of these so-called agencies and ask for help?" his grandmother asked in an interview with CBC.

A spokesperson for Alberta Justice said secure services are always used as a last resort.

The family — who says some of the teen's issues are a result of his stay in group homes — has met several times with MP Michael Cooper. Cooper told CBC that amending the Youth Criminal Justice Act may not be the answer. 

"It seems to me to be largely a resourcing issue," said Cooper. "When he's sent to a group home, for example, there seems to be a lack of resources — a lack of taking care of him, assisting him, and keeping him there. And as a result, he's been back out on the streets."

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

@andreahuncar

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Huncar

Reporter

Andrea Huncar reports on human rights and the justice system. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

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