Nova Scotia

Troubled teen gets probation

A troubled teenager who made headlines when the province tried to send him to Utah for treatment was placed on probation for one year Webnesday on charges of breaching curfew and house arrest.

A troubled teenager who made headlines when the province tried to send him to Utah for treatment was placed on probation for one year Wednesday on charges of breaching curfew and house arrest.

He also pleaded guilty to stealing his grandparents' vehicle.

The 16-year-old, who cannot be named because of his age, has been in the care of his grandparents since last fall.

Since then, the court heard, the boy has defied court-imposed restrictions numerous times.

Wednesday, Judge Jamie Campbell said he felt a "sense of helplessness" in trying to sentence the boy.

He also ordered that the teen resume living with his grandparents, attend an education program and get substance abuse and mental health counselling.

Crown attorney John Nisbet agreed with the sentence.

"Almost always you're better off in the community, trying to change your behaviour. We can lock you up for a while and you just go back to the same environment, you haven't learned any of the skills or lessons you need to learn," he said.

Most agree the boy has complex emotional and chemical disorders, but the family says he has never had a full mental assessment. So far, the courts have not ordered one.

Family advocate Beth Sparks said the assessment needs to be done.

"Give them the option of a proper diagnosis. Because your sugar is high on one day, doesn't mean you're a diabetic. There's so many things. Because I need glasses doesn't mean I'm blind," she said.

The teenager is well-known in the justice system. His run-ins with the law include charges of robbery, arson and driving without a licence.

In 2009, the boy's grandparents asked the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services to step in and take responsibility for him.

When they found out about the plan to send him to Utah, they asked the court to force the province to treat him in Nova Scotia.

U.S. Customs agents refused to allow the boy entry into the country. The teen was then sent to the Bayfield facility in Ontario. He's also had brief stays at the Wood Street facility in Truro and the youth centre in Waterville.

His grandmother was so upset by the handling of the boy's case by the Department of Community Services, she protested outside the Nova Scotia legislature.

At the sentencing hearing, Campbell called her and her husband "responsible guardians."

Next month, the teen will be back in youth court to set a trial date on charges that include trespassing, mischief and possession of another stolen vehicle.