Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Are we being unfair to the "laughing" car thief?

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In the past few weeks, my colleague, James Turner, and I have written plenty about the 16-year-old Winnipeg girl who laughed off the death of a city cabbie following a horrific stolen car crash in March.Reaction to our stories has been widespread, with the publicly clearly outraged by this teen's behaviour and her inability to follow court orders.It reached a fever pitch this past weekend when we revealed that the girl has gone online and posted pictures of the tragedy - complete with her own headline of "F---ing Deaaaaadly!" along with images of her proudly showing off her court-ordered ankle bracelet. (Read story HERE)The same bracelet she's accused of trying to saw off last week, which has now landed her back in custody.James and I have spent time with the girl's parents, who are frustrated as anyone. This is not a case of neglectful, uncaring parents - Mom has already turned her daughter in twice to police for breaches. How many parents out there would honestly do the same thing with their child?Police and justice officials are also fed up, with many wondering what it will take to get the message through to this girl.However, not everyone thinks the situation is as hopeless as it appears.As you can see in the email below, the chaplain at the Manitoba Youth Centre believes this girl is a much different one than is being portrayed in court and in public.And he feels us media types have been unfair with our coverage.Have a read - and then tell me what you think by posting your comments below. (The only editing I've done is to remove the girl's name, as publishing it is a violation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act)*****Mike,Here’s the letter I wrote the court. It’s based on a significant amount of time spent in conversation with this young woman and provides, I think, some badly needed balance to the perception that has developed around this story. I find it interesting that some people assume that the comments she made during a very tense and awkward interrogation are more credible and authentic than the comments she made in a safe environment after careful reflection. Anyway the letter represents my professional opinion as someone who has been engaged in pastoral care and counseling for over 30 years.Colin Peterson, Chaplain, MYCTo whom it may concern,Re: (The girl's name)I have met with (the girl) four times since her admission to the Manitoba Youth Centre.The purpose of these meetings was to offer spiritual care and counselling. Based on my sessions with (the girl) I would offer the following observations:(The girl) is, in many respects, a typical teenager who speaks and acts impulsively sometimes minimizing the impact of her words and actions. As a defense mechanism, when (the girl) feels uncomfortable or vulnerable, she presents with a certain measure of hostility or “attitude” and appears to be rude or selfish. When given a safe environment in which to discuss her fears and deepest feelings, it is evident that she is a sensitive young woman who is capable of expressing empathy and remorse with authentic and congruent emotion and affect. It is my belief that her highly publicized remarks to the WPS, while deeply disturbing, were not a true reflection of (the girl's) beliefs and feelings but more likely a post-traumatic response and a reflection of the profound emotion surrounding the events about which she was being questioned.My sessions with her have been emotional sessions indeed. It is my conviction that with ongoing support and counselling, (the girl), will learn to trust persons in positions of authority and express her feelings of pain and sadness more openly and appropriately.Yours truly,The Rev. Colin Peterson; M.Div. S.T.M.Chaplain – Manitoba Youth Centre

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.


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