Facing criminal charges at any age can be traumatic and confusing. However, when the accused is a teenager, it is less likely that he or she understands the magnitude of the offence charged or the potential ramifications under the criminal law system. Teens often react to situations quickly and with little forethought, especially when they are with a group of peers. This may cause them to do things they would not otherwise do.
Toronto law enforcement recently arrested a 17-year-old boy who was allegedly one of nine teens involved in a recent assault. The incident occurred as four other teens were approached by the larger group who allegedly began to insult, shout at and mock the four for their clothing, including the Jewish yarmulkes they wore on their heads. Reports say the larger group continued shouting slurs, and the situation escalated until the larger group assaulted two of the Jewish teenagers.
The two teens told police that the group kicked and punched them before stealing sunglasses from one of them. When police arrived, the larger group ran off. However, police say they located and arrested one member of the group.
Because the larger group allegedly instigated the confrontation based upon the religious garb of the four boys, the teen is charged with a hate crime. This means he is eligible for sentence enhancements if convicted. The situation is likely to stir high emotions among many in Toronto, and this may make it difficult for the teen and his companions to receive a fair judgement in the court of public opinion. Fortunately, in a court of criminal law, a solid defence strategy may improve his chances of a fair outcome.