After being convicted of killing Neilson Catcheway during a random, late night attack on Main Street, a 15-year-old boy has been urged to heed the grieving family’s message of forgiveness.
"It’s not very often the court sees this kind of forgiveness from someone who has lost somebody so close to them," provincial court Judge Robin Finlayson told the boy Wednesday. "Be thankful for their comments and take them to heart," he said.
Finlayson ordered that the boy, who had pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the October 2019 attack, serve a three-year sentence under an intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision order, six months of which would be served in the community.
The program, available to a small number of violent and troubled young offenders, allows them access to one-on-one counselling, occupational therapy, tutoring, and other specialized services.
The Crown had recommended the teen serve the entire sentence in closed custody.
"You’re getting a little bit of a break," Finlayson said. "We still have hope and confidence that you will be a contributing member of society as you get older."
When the teen was 13, he and four other boys, including a 14-year-old co-accused, crossed paths with Catcheway on the sidewalk of the underpass at Higgins Avenue shortly after midnight. One of the boys heard Catcheway mumble something and the accused decided to "jump him."
Catcheway tried to run away after the accused kicked at him but he was quickly knocked to the ground. Court was told the accused kicked Catcheway in the head and shoulder as he held on to a sidewalk railing for support.
Catcheway, in an effort to escape, had thrown one leg over the railing when the boy ran at Catcheway and shoved him in the back, causing him to lose his grip and fall two metres to the road below.
An autopsy determined Catcheway died as the result of "crushing injuries" sustained in the collision with the car.
Court was told the boy has a disadvantaged background similar to many Indigenous offenders, marked by poverty, neglect, substance abuse and abandonment by his father. A pre-sentence report provided to court said on the day of the attack, the boy was troubled by an angry encounter with his father.
The boy "struggled so much and so mightily at so young an age," Finlayson said. "It’s pretty obvious he’s had a pretty tough upbringing."
At a sentencing hearing last month, the victim’s mother, Martha Catcheway, and sister April offered the boy words of healing and hope.
"I know your upbringing was really hard," April Catcheway said. "I’m really sure there is a good person inside you, I can see that."
Martha Catcheway told the boy she will forgive him "as time goes by."
"I know your upbringing wasn’t right and I know I have to forgive because that’s what my son would want me to do."
The boy’s co-accused, who admitted to shoving Catcheway to the ground and kicking him in the head, pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm and was sentenced last October to nine months custody.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.