Court responds to teen offender’s ‘great achievement’

Court House-Sept-2013-05A year after being involved in the aftermath of a violent liquor shop robbery, teenager Tamatea Lorenzo Briggs is seen as having the potential to be “a great leader”.

The Linwood 17-year-old was granted a discharge without conviction on charges of being an accessory after the fact to robbery, assault, unlawfully taking a car from the assault victim, and driving while forbidden.

The discharge means he won’t face a seven-year stand-down before he can apply to join the army.

He has completed one military programme and then gone through a Limited Service Volunteer course at Burnham where he has graduated with merit – the highest rating he could achieve – and was top of the 36-strong LSV group.

Christchurch District Court Judge Jane Farish today granted the discharge at his sentencing, saying how unusual it was for the police officer in charge of the case, the Crown, the Probation Service, and the courts to agree that there should be no conviction. The police officer in charge of the case had written a letter in support of Briggs and his discharge without conviction.

The discharge was in the community’s best interests, Judge Farish said.

“The army think you will make a great leader, and will be someone who will be able to lead men and be a positive role model for other young people, particularly those who have had a disadvantaged upbringing such as yourself,” said the judge.

Briggs was drinking with a group who decided to go to a liquor shop to get more alcohol. He drove them, but the purchase turned sour when they were refused alcohol because they were under-age and could not provide identification.

The two youths then smashed bottles over the head of the shop assistant at the Woolston store, and Briggs drove them away afterwards. Judge Farish said she accepted that he had not known that the associates were going to use violence. The younger offenders have been dealt with in the Youth Court.

She said that Briggs had always been seen as having potential, even though his parents had chosen to abuse alcohol.

Even granting the discharge, the judge imposed 150 hours of community work which can be served at an agency placement rather than on a work gang. “There are agencies that would really benefit from your ability and your skills,” she said.

She hoped that he would apologise to the liquor shop worker who was bashed and robbed. “It would be good for him to know, and a positive thing for you to do,” she told Briggs.

She noted that after his arrest for his involvement in the robbery, he had been remanded in custody for four months, which had been the wake up call he needed. “You said then that this wasn’t going to be your life.”

His turn-around had been “a remarkable achievement”, she said.

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