July 23rd, 2024

Mom gets jail for not providing necessaries of life

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on July 11, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Lethbridge woman who failed to provide the necessaries of life for her baby daughter, then lied to police to cover up the offence, has been sentenced to one and a half years in jail.

The woman, who can’t be identified to protect the identity of the child, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Lethbridge court of justice to one count each of failing to provide necessaries of life, and mischief.

Court was told that on Nov. 26 of last year the mother noticed her three-week-old baby was not using her left arm in a normal manner, and determined her elbow might be dislocated. Her partner, who also can’t be named, thought he may have caused the dislocation by pulling on her arm while changing her clothes.

Because the couple had been convicted in 2018 of failing to provide necessaries of life in relation to another child, they chose not to take the baby to the hospital. Instead the father researched online how to reset the elbow, and after watching videos and reading articles he attempted to do it himself, even though the videos and articles said the procedure should only be done by trained medical personnel.

He tried three times to fix the injury, and admitted he used considerable force during the attempts.

“On the third attempt, (the father) heard a popping sound that he thought was the result of a successful attempt,” said Crown Prosecutor Michael Fox.

Fox pointed out that during the attempts the baby’s mother encouraged her partner to try and fix the arm so they wouldn’t have to see a doctor. The baby still appeared to be in discomfort, however, and a couple of days later they made an appointment with their doctor, who referred the baby to the hospital for X-rays.

“It was at this point that it was learned that in his attempts to fix (the) elbow, (the father) had applied significant pressure to (the) left arm ultimately causing an non-displaced fracture of (the baby’s) left radius,” Fox said.

The arm did not require surgery, and is expected to heal without any long-term complication caused by the father’s actions.

Doctors also made two other determinations: that the initial issue with the baby’s left arm was not dislocation as the couple believed, but a congenital condition that causes the baby to “tuck” her thumb; and that the baby could not have caused the fracture herself.

During a subsequent police investigation, the couple concocted a story claiming they only noticed the injury the day after they had left the baby with a babysitter, who was related to the mother. Police were unable to find the transient babysitter until the following month, and as their investigation continued they determined the couple had lied.

In March of this year police arrested the couple, and while they initially stuck to their original story, and the father even insisted the babysitter was lying, they eventually confessed and admitted they fabricated the story implicating the babysitter. They also admitted they didn’t want to take their baby to the hospital for the dislocated elbow because of their previous charge, and they knew they shouldn’t attempt to treat her themselves.

“(the mother) acknowledges that by not seeking medical attention immediately, and allowing (her partner) to try to perform a medical procedure to correct the perceived injury, she failed to protect the health and safety of her daughter, thereby exposing (her) to the risk of and actual physical harm,” Fox said.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the initial injury that they were trying to fix was in fact congenital, and if they had, in fact, not been so afraid of how it would appear to others and taken (the baby) to the doctor, it’s likely that it would have been discovered it was congenital and that all three of them would be home today enjoying one another’s company.”

Court was told the woman suffers from some cognitive deficits that impact her ability to decide between right and wrong, particularly when it comes to her relationship with her partner who is physically and verbally abusive and controlling.

“She has now come forward and acknowledged that she did live for seven years with an abusive partner who was very dominant in their relationship, and he took control of almost every situation,” Lethbridge lawyer Ingrid Hess said.

She said her client, who may have sustained some brain damage at birth, was afraid of her abusive partner, which caused her to go along with the fabricated story, and resulted in her “very poor choices” to not get help for her daughter.

Justice Derek Redman accepted the joint recommendation from the Crown and defence for a total sentence of 18 months, and said he took into consideration her guilty pleas, her cognitive deficits, her abusive relationship, and her own trauma in her life. But Redman also emphasized the seriousness of the offence.

“You put your young child at risk,” he said. “You did so really for your own interests, so as to avoid some type of discovery and criminal prosecution. You knew that you should go see a doctor; you researched it, you knew what you should do, and yet you didn’t.”

Although sentenced to a total of 18 months in jail, the woman was credited for the equivalent of 191 days she already spent in remand custody, which leaves her with slightly less than one year to serve.

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