Parents Jailed in Baby’s Abuse

Toronto Star

Parents Jailed in Baby’s Abuse:

Couple broke legs of 4-pound boy just home from hospital
Father fails to show up at hearing, sentenced to two years

Toronto Star, Thursday, October 28, 2004; B1

By: Harold Levy, Staff Reporter

A judge sentenced a Toronto couple to prison yesterday for breaking the legs of their premature infant and waiting 24 hours before getting him medical care, but the baby’s father failed to show up at the hearing.

Prosecutor Cara Sweeny told Superior Court Justice Peter Jarvis a bench warrant would be issued for the man’s arrest.

Jarvis then sentenced the absent man to two years in penitentiary, and sent the baby’s mother to reformatory for nine months. The judge said he wanted to send a message that this type of behaviour “cannot be tolerated.” The woman has no previous record.

Sweeny had sought a jail sentence ranging from six months to 4 ½ years for the couple who cannot be named in order to protect the son’s identity.

At an earlier sentencing hearing, Sweeny argued that, “for 24 hours their child suffered. His left leg was broken, and he had four metaphyseal fractures to the right leg, usually caused by jerking or swinging a baby by the wrist of ankle.”

Last June, a jury found the baby’s 23 year old mother and 38 year old father guilty of aggravated assault and failure to provide the necessities of life.

In a four-week trial, the jury had heard that the infant, who weighed 2 pounds at birth, remained in hospital six weeks before being released to his parents.

The six fractures, including a total severing of a femur, were inflicted 10 days after the boy came home, but his parents waited 24 hours before seeking medical help.

Jarvis told the woman she and her husband had broken “one of the greatest trusts

in life,” because “our children are completely dependent on us.”

“You have brought shame upon yourselves and deserve to be punished.”

Jarvis noted that the jury’s verdict did not make clear which spouse had inflicted the most serious injuries.

Outside court, Sweeny said the baby’s father had received a longer sentence because he had a criminal record involving “crimes of dishonesty”.

Sweeny said the parents had never expressed remorse or accepted any responsibility for the injuries.

“Their position has been all along that it wasn’t them, and that they don’t know how this happened,” she said.

The defence lawyers had said that following the infant’s release from hospital at a weight of 4 pounds, he had low bone density, which made his limbs unusually brittle. Edward Prutschi, the mother’s lawyer, had stressed that she did not elude a doctor’s appointment on the Monday after the injuries occurred, and that shortly after she gave birth her husband was jailed on an unrelated issue, and she was left alone to cope. Sweeny said the child has been in the care of the children’s aid society for “quite a long time,” has recovered and is “happy and healthy.”

Outside court, Prutschi told reporters he was disappointed Jarvis had not imposed a conditional sentence, a form of house arrest, on his client. Prutschi said a conditional sentence was warranted because his client was a youthful first offender, had received a favourable pre-sentence report and wanted to have a chance to take over her infant’s care.

Prutschi said a lawyer will be appearing in the Ontario Court of Appeal this morning on his client’s behalf in a bid to have her released pending an appeal. She and her husband were out on bail before yesterday’s hearing.

Detective Constable Shawna Coxon told reporters that police went to the couple’s home after the husband failed to attend court yesterday but did not find him there.

“He can give me a call and we can make this very simple,” Coxon said. “He’s going to have to sooner or later, so it’s worth dealing with it now.” Lawyer, Aitan Lerner, who represents the father, said he is “most concerned” about his client, and hopes he is okay because it us unlike him to miss court.

“He has been under a great amount of stress as a result of losing his child at a crown ward hearing earlier this week.”

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