A 16-year-old boy, who spent most of his life at Mount Carmel Hospital, was jailed for 36 months after he admitted to 12 counts of theft in St Julians this summer.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit reluctantly handed down the jail term, the minimum allowed by law, when the boy told her he did not want either to be sent to a residential home or be put under the supervision of a probation officer. He insisted he did not want to have to follow routine and take the pills (prescribed by a psychiatrist) and, furthermore, he “could not stand priests” (who ran the homes).

“I lived in a home once. I was kicked out because I did not want to wake up at 6.30 a.m. and did not keep my room clean.”

The magistrate said she could understood it was difficult for him to abide by routine once he never had a family structure but he had to show he was willing to change his ways.

“If you maintain this obstinate attitude and constantly want to follow your whims, I’ll have to do what I would rather not do,” the magistrate told the boy standing alone in the dock.

The boy, whose name cannot be published because he is a minor, pleaded guilty to involvement in thefts from 12 people, mostly foreigners, in St Julians over the past three months.

Police inspectors Chris Pullicino and Malcolm Bondin, prosecuting, said the boy formed part of a group of young people who had been pick-pocketing in the Paceville area.

The boy’s lawyer, Henry Antoncich, said he was concerned for his client who had no direction in life. The magistrate agreed and asked the boy if he was worried about his future. The boy shook his head signalling he was not. He explained that he did not work and resorted to theft because he had no money.

Replying to questions put to him by the magistrate, he explained that when he was six years old he was sent to Mount Carmel Hospital where he spent most of his life. About a year ago he went to live with his mother but she moved out and left him alone “because we don’t get along”.

His father, who was out of the picture, had stopped giving him maintenance about a year ago.

He asked to be sent to a YMCA shelter because his friends were there but the magistrate pointed out that it had been his friends who got him in trouble in the first place.

Dr Stafrace Zammit noted that, although the boy was a minor and had a clean criminal record, she could not ignore the fact that he needed direction and was not showing any desire to reform. She said she had no choice but to jail him for the minimum period allowed by law and ordered that he be kept in the young offenders’ section.

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