Merciful judge gives second chance to misguided teen
It was an emotional exchange between Senior Parish Judge Lori-Anne Cole-Montaque and a 19-year-old defendant who pledged to make her proud after being given a new lease on life, when he received a suspended sentence for robbery with aggravation.
"I don't want see you in this room again, you know. This is an unusual challenge and I have never asked any defendant to do that (but) come to the court's office a year from now and leave a message for me. I want to know what you are up to one year from now. Let me tell you what my expectations are - that you will be enrolled in school. Even if you don't do the exam, one year from now I want to know how many subjects you are doing. That sound reasonable?" the senior judge pressed.
"Yes, Your Honour," answered the teen, who pleaded guilty to robbery with aggravation on May 12 in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.
"We going shake on it," the judge indicated, stretching out her arms from the bench, gesturing to the youngster in the prisoner's dock to agree to their plan.
The teen and his 20-year-old co-accused confessed to robbing a schoolboy of his Samsung Galaxy cell phone. The boy was walking along Hamilton Drive, Trafalgar Park, in St Andrew, when the incident occurred.
"I am going to give you a chance. You are at a stage where you need help. I sense that you are remorseful. But talk to Aunty Judge now, what are you going to do with that chance. You and I are going to work out a plan for your life in the next few minutes you are before me. When I was at high school, I said I wanted to do law. So I crafted it, I formulated it and said I was going to be a lawyer, what you going turn?" the judge asked.
"Your Honour, to be honest that's the same course I wanted to take while I was in high school. I was the champion boy while I was a student at [school name deleted], but because of the COVID, I didn't get the chance to do my subjects," he disclosed.
The defendant told the judge that his dream of becoming a criminal lawyer was directly influenced by the events of his father's death, who was shot by a friend.
"Your Honour, I believe the reason for behaving and acting like this was because of family issues. I lost my father at the age seven and I lost my mother last year April and didn't get to go to the funeral because I was in custody," he further explained.
The judge sympathised with the teen. She said that had he been given the opportunity to attend his mother's funeral, he might have received the closure he desired.
"That happened, you never get to go to your mother's funeral but why?"
"Because of the crime I committed," the youngster acknowledged.
Cole-Montaque said it was human nature to feel stressed under such circumstance but she would not seek to justify his actions of robbing a student of his cellphone, as permissible because his parents had died. She suggested that he will now have to "find constructive, legal ways" to cope with the double loss, and urged him to build a bond with his other family members, who can assist in steering him on the right path.
He was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment at hard labour, suspended for two years and during that time he is to be supervised by the probation department.
The other defendant told the judge that he "plans to live a better life and be a better person", by pursuing his passion of being a chef. He was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment at hard labour, suspended for two years with supervision for a year.