Dad says his years of taking heroin and crack affected teenage son who stole car

By Tom Tuite

A teenager avoided getting detained for a car theft after his father made an impassioned plea and told a court that his own years of drug addiction were to blame for his son’s offending.

The 17-year-old boy had pleaded guilty earlier to motor theft and criminal damage of the car in Dublin last April. At the resumed hearing today, Judge John O’Connor was furnished with a negative probation report on the youth who has no prior criminal convictions and cannot be named because he is a minor. He had been warned that he was facing a six-month term today.

Judge O’Connor noted the teenager had been aggressive during one of his meetings with his probation officer. Afterwards the boy stopped attending further meetings and the judge warned him he could expect strict regime in the Oberstown detention centre.

The judge said the boy had been given a lot of chances by the court and his parents had been supportive; on Oct. 10 last he gave him a warning that he faced a six month sentence if the next probation report was not positive.

The defence solicitor said the teen was now more positive about working with a new probation officer which was not accepted by the judge. There were also issues about the youth taking part in a training course.

The boy’s father then addressed the court and described how his own years of being an addict had affected his son.

“I’m not justifying what he has done, I’ve been to the (educational) project and it is brilliant and they say they would love to work with him. I was on heroin and crack for 20 years, you know what goes on with that, prison time and he was brought up in a home with no structure, no ethics,” he said, adding that he and the teen’s mother split up.

“If he was under my roof he would be going to the programme, but I’ve no control over where he goes due to the fact he lives with his mother,” the father told the court.

He said his son, “finds abiding by rules hard, getting out of bed hard, I’d ask the court to give him an ultimatum and I appreciate you’ve done very good for him. I feel I’ve some contribution to how he is today,” the man said.

Judge O’Connor told the father that his comments were helpful and moving and he took on board his point about the teen’s lack of a structured life. He referred to a support programme which works in conjunction with the court to help youths abide by their bail terms and ensure they attend appointments set up for them with agencies trying help divert them from re-offending.

The judge said the teenager needed to comply with that and he did not want to send him to Oberstown where he would mix with others who have committed serious crimes.

He told the father, “Whatever you have done in the past you have certainly turned it around and are now a very good role model for your son.” He then spoke to the youth who had remained silent as his father had opened up about how their family life had suffered through his addiction. “We need to know you can do it,” Judge O’Connor said to the boy who quietly replied, “will do”.

Judge O’Connor adjourned sentencing and put the case back for four weeks. In addition to asking for an updated probation report he sought one from the Extern social justice charity which operate the bail support scheme.

“I think the penny has dropped regarding engaging with people,” the teen’s father said.

Judge O’Connor explained to the boy that in addition to having regard for his interests he had to take the victim into account. However, he told the boy he would find the Extern people helpful but it was down to him to engage.

“You don’t want to be getting up in Oberstown told you are going to school and a strict regime; six months would be a very hard sentence for you,” he warned the teen.

Most Read in Ireland