Thursday, May 27, 1999

Michelle Shephard

p. B3.

Teen prostitute escapes from CAS group home

Police on lookout for girl, 14, on streets of Toronto

When a youth court judge released a 14-year-old girl, known on the streets as Kimberly, she blamed the adults in the teenager's life.

They had failed her, she said in her ruling, and now with the proper help the abusive cycle of juvenile prostitution, theft and abuse, will hopefully stop.

Yesterday, however, the cycle continued as Kimberly ran away from a Children's Aid Society group home and again hit the streets.

Earlier this year, Toronto media covered Kimberly's story after police reported she became a sex-worker at the age of 11. Police say keeping young girls off the streets once they've started in prostitution is a difficult task.

And although the public was shocked to hear of Kimberly's story, detectives with the juvenile task force have said she is one of hundreds of girls under 18 — many as young as 13 or 14 — who ply their trade under the watchful eyes of city pimps.

Last March 29, Madam Justice Lynn King of Toronto's juvenile court said it was unfortunate that Kimberly, who is now a veteran of the sex trade, was "put in the system" two years ago for shoplifting a ring worth $1.25. "She's not in the system through any fault of her own but of the adults in her life who didn't live up to their expectations," King said.

The judge said she was hopeful that with proper support and counselling, which Kimberly was then getting as a ward of the Children's Aid Society, it would be possible for the teen to turn her life around.

Mavin Wong, Kimberly's lawyer at the time, said the teen was raised in an unstable family and suffered emotional physical and sexual abuse as a young girl.

"She is not a bad person," said King, adding that once the girl was in the system things spiralled downward.

Last year, Kimberly was convicted of procuring another 14-year-old girl to become a prostitute and was sentenced to 45 days in a group home.

She ran away from the home, and was arrested four months later in a raid on a North York brothel where she was working. Before that arrest, she had been under the care of the Children's Aid Society and closely monitored by police. City outreach workers also said they were familiar with Kimberly and had offered her support.

Despite intervention, Kimberly has stayed on the streets and has moved indoors to escort services, where field workers say the women are more difficult to monitor.

Also at the hearing last March, Crown Attorney Barboura Ferns asked that Kimberly be sentenced to additional time for breach of probation.

"As soon as she leaves custody her history suggests she'll be right back on the street. it's not that she doesn't have good intentions, she just doesn't have the ability to follow through yet,' Ferns said.

The juvenile task force has been alerted of Kimberly's disappearance from the group home, and will be keeping an eye out for the teen.

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Created: March 28, 2000
Last modified: January 31, 2001
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