|The Manitoba Youth Centre at 170 Doncaster St. in Winnipeg. (Brian Donogh/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG -- The general public would be shocked and its confidence in the justice system undermined if a 13-year-old street gang member accused of being the "planner" in an alarming robbery-conspiracy case were granted bail, a Manitoba judge said Tuesday.
"I'm satisfied the Crown has a pretty strong case against you," Judge Carena Roller told the boy, who appeared close to tears after learning he wasn't getting out.
"You explained to police that this was your idea," Roller said in assessing the circumstances of the case against him.
"There is potential for a lengthy jail sentence," Roller added.
Roller's decision to keep the boy locked up represents a major legal win for Manitoba Justice.
Prosecutor Sheila Seesahai advanced a rarely used argument that bailing the boy out would undermine public confidence in the justice system.
The youth has no prior criminal record and is presumed innocent.
He is jointly accused with three other youths aged 14, 15 and 17, with hatching what was described to Roller as a "chilling" criminal plot to rob a convenience store on Aug. 1 for drug money using a stolen sawed-off shotgun.
Police and the Crown allege the four are young Indian Posse gang associates who conspired together to carry out the robbery, while making careful efforts to avoid detection by disguising themselves and wearing socks over their hands to not leave behind fingerprints.
The heist was foiled just moments before it was set to unfold after a passerby -- dubbed a "Good Samaritan" by the Crown -- called 911 after noticed a group of youths huddled outside the store wearing extra garments on a very hot night.
The 13-year-old admitted to police the gun was his, telling them it was stolen from a break and enter earlier in the summer, the Crown said at a previous hearing.
Despite his age, he managed to keep the weapon in his mother's home while modifying it into an easily concealed sawed-off firearm, Roller was told.
His defence lawyer, Scott Newman, fought the Crown's opposition to bail and an appeal of Roller's decision to a higher court is possible.
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the maximum sentence he faces is three years of custody and community supervision. He can not be sentenced as an adult given his age.