Saturday, February 13, 1999

Michelle Shephard
and Tracy Tyler

p. A12.

Police, guards dispute child prostitute's cocaine story

'Overdosed' girl did not get drugs, officials say

A correctional officer at the York Detention Centre where a 14-year-old prostitute was held in custody said it would have been impossible for the girl to obtain cocaine at the centre.

But police from Toronto's juvenile task force who arrested the teen said there's "no way" she had any drugs when she was caught.

The girl, known on the streets as Kimberly, was released from the Hospital for Sick Children yesterday where she was held for two days after claiming she had overdosed on cocaine.

With all the accusations, speculations and denials surrounding Kimberly this week, Social Services Minister Janet Ecker has vowed she'll find out exactly what happened.

"I'm going to get briefed early next week in terms of a full report. There are strict procedures that should be in place for searches and confiscating items that are found," Ecker said yesterday. "I have asked that the procedures be reviewed to make sure they are applied."

Comments from Ecker have angered guards at the York Detention Centre, a correctional officer said.

"We did everything we could for that child," he said. "She is sorely misinformed. If she had taken the time to ask us directly, she would not be trashing us."

The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was on a shift at the centre when Kimberly reported she had overdosed.

"She was alert, she was sitting with a group of kids and we were just awaiting staff to get her to the hospital."

Jail staff are required to contact a guardian or the Children's Aid Society when youths are admitted. As part of standard procedure, the girl was strip-searched to check for drugs and weapons, the officer said.

"Obviously, if she ingested cocaine, which she claims she did, it was before she was admitted to our facility."

Police with the juvenile task force dismissed the suggestion she had ingested a bag of cocaine before her arrest.

"She didn't even see us coming to arrest her," said an officer. "There's absolutely no way she swallowed any drugs or took anything while she was in our custody."

Kimberly was arrested Tuesday and held by police until her brief court appearance Wednesday. She was then taken to the York Detention Centre, where she was held on a breach of probation.

On Thursday morning, before another court appearance at 311 Jarvis St., she told a children's aid worker she had ingested cocaine.

Kimberly was eligible to stay in an open-custody youth facility, such as a group home, the correctional officer said.

But jail staff "lobbied hard to keep her in secure detention at our facility," for the public's protection and her own, because they were concerned she could be an escape risk, he said.

The 29-bed, co-ed, secure custody centre is operated by the social services ministry for youths aged 12 to 15.

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Created: March 7, 1999
Last modified: January 31, 2001
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