Dave*, 15, had been using marijuana for the past year. When his drug use became daily, he began shoplifting from local stores to feed his habit. He decided that he could make more money by stealing bicycles. He saw a nice bicycle outside a local convenience store and decided to try to steal it. He couldn't get the lock undone so he waited for the owner of the bike to come out. He followed the owner (a 10-year old boy) into a local park and used force to remove him from the bicycle, causing injury to the boy.
The case was referred to the Project by the defence counsel. The accused had a previous charge of shoplifting, which was dealt with by way of Alternative Measures. Dave entered a guilty plea to Theft Under $5000 and Assault. The caseworker began a series of meetings with the accused and his parents to discuss the causes and consequences of Dave's behaviour.
The caseworker met with the victim and his parents to talk about the impact this crime had on their lives. They felt a great deal of fear and a diminished sense of security in their neighbourhood. The boy's parents put many restrictions on him because of their fear for his safety and the boy felt his summer was unfairly limited. The victim and his parents chose to meet with the accused face-to-face to receive an apology, so he could see for himself if the youth was truly remorseful.
A Circle Conference was held which included: the victim, his parents, the accused and a support person, a community volunteer and two facilitators. The meeting was very satisfying for everyone. The victims were impressed with Dave's sincerity and courage, as well as his openness to discussing the problems that led him to commit this crime. They expressed that they were much less fearful and developed an interest in Dave and his future. Dave listened to the victims describe the impact of this crime on their family, apologized sincerely and stated that he understood their reactions.
The Agreement developed in the Circle included: the apology by Dave, the acceptance of the apology by the victims, a commitment by Dave to engage in drug counselling and a promise to spend a social evening together following the sentencing. The victims initiated the latter part in order to get to know Dave better, hoping to end this experience on a positive note. Dave was very surprised by this but was happy to comply.
A few days after the Circle was held, the victims stated that they were far less fearful and they wanted Dave to have a good life. They viewed Dave as a good boy who needed help with his drug problem. They felt he was very courageous and that his willingness to meet with them in person boded well for Dave's future.
When asked, Dave said that he was very relieved following the Circle. Dave was surprised how nice the victims were to him and was ashamed that he had hurt such nice people. He seemed determined to live up to their faith in him.
Prior to sentencing, Dave initiated contact with a drug counsellor and began the process of dealing with his problem.
The Resolution Agreement was submitted to court at the time of sentencing. Dave was sentenced to a period of 12 months of Probation.
* Please note that identifying details and names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants.