By Kuhl, Nick on January 25, 2020.
A Lethbridge woman will serve a two-year conditional sentence after pleading guilty Friday to a lesser charge, thus concluding a case that began six years ago.
The woman, who can’t be identified under a court-ordered publication ban, had originally been charged with child abduction in relation to an incident where a child was taken to Belize. The case later involved their removal from Central America and a question on whether or not her Charter rights were breached.
Friday morning in Lethbridge provincial court, Judge Jerry LeGrandeur read out a lengthy summary of the case, then stated the “Charter does not apply.”
A 10-minute break ensued, followed by a surprise joint submission by Calgary defence lawyer Andre Ouellette and Crown prosecutor Tony Bell – which was read by Bell, then accepted by LeGrandeur.
The guilty plea was for breach of a court order, while the conditional sentence will involve one year of house arrest followed by a year of probation.
“My client was alleged to have taken her child, and she admitted it afterwards, but to Belize, in contravention of a court order,” Ouellette told reporters outside the courthouse following the conclusion.
“The judge basically decided that the Charter in this case, on the facts in this case, did not apply. But he did find there could be an issue if this matter went to trial, in regards to the fairness of the trial because of the way Canadian officials had played around with the Hague Convention rules.”
Ouellette said his client was pleased the case is finally over.
“It’s been going on for years, so she feels a lot better – she’s going to have another child. She feels relieved, mostly, because it’s been going on so long,” he said. “This will have an impact on potentially any other court aspects involving custody of the child’s access and things of that nature.”
“Justice has been done,” said Bell, in a brief statement to media following the case’s conclusion, adding it was a “fair resolution.”
The case began on Jan. 6, 2014, when the woman’s ex-husband told police the accused had taken their son and left the country. The following month she was charged with child abduction and a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Police tracked the woman and child to Mexico, as well as Guatemala and various parts of Belize, and the mother was the subject of various Interpol alerts.
The following July, Lethbridge police learned Belize authorities found the pair in the town of San Ignacio and took them into custody. The mother was jailed and fined for failing to produce valid immigration documents, and the four-year-old boy was placed in the care of Belize Social Services.
In August 2017, the mother was removed from the country and arrested after landing in Houston, then returned to Canada later that night. She was taken into custody by Lethbridge police officers at the Calgary International Airport and charged with child abduction, then released from custody Aug. 23 following a bail hearing in Lethbridge.
Ouellette didn’t elaborate on behalf of his client on what prompted her to take the route she did. He did say, however, that there were “issues between the parents.”
“There were some serious disputes between them,” he said. “And on that basis, my client made a decision that she felt that whatever the father would view as the appropriate way to bring up the child was not appropriate by her standards.”
The woman’s two-year conditional sentence involves six months of 24/7 house arrest, except by exception, followed by six months of house arrest with a curfew. Then she will placed on probation for a year with similar conditions of, among others, keeping the peace, reporting to a supervisor, attending court as requested and residing at either her current address or at a court-approved address.
With files from Delon Shurtz
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