- Our Town
Mother found guilty of child abuse and neglect
A Supreme Court judge in Williams Lake has found a young mother guilty of common assault of her infant son as well as failing to provide him with the necessities of life.
The woman, referred to as SH by the judge to protect her son N’s identity, was 19 when she gave birth to N prematurely in September 2011.
In his written judgement dated Feb. 26, 2016, Justice Robert Jenkins said SH shook N on six occasions from the time he was a newborn until he was six months old.
She struck him on the head four times between age nine and 12 months, causing bruising.
And she squeezed his torso when he was 10 months old.
“One of these assaults, committed when N was three or four months, fractured N’s rib,” the judge stated.
Doctors testifying at the trial, which took place Dec. 15 to 18 in Williams Lake Supreme Court, said SH missed several appointments scheduled with pediatricians due to their concerns. One doctor testified his weight had fallen below five per cent of babies on the growth chart at four months old.
At six months the baby weighed just under 10 pounds.
Based on the doctors’ testimonies, the judge found the mother’s failure to feed the baby endangered his life and would likely have caused his health to be permanently injured.
In March 2012, N was admitted to hospital after a doctor called the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
"N remained in the hospital in Prince George from March 23 to April 3, 2012.
During that time, Dr. Abelson testified N “did very well,” gaining “a lot of weight” (15 per cent of his body weight in 11 days). At this time, Dr. Abelson stated his diagnosis of N’s failure to thrive prior to his admission was due to an “inadequate intake of calories,”" stated Jenkins.
When the baby was discharged in April, the ministry placed him in foster care where his caretaker, who also testified at trial, said he began to thrive and was eating well when he spent weekends or periods of days with her.
For her part, the mother testified she had a difficult life and suffered from depression.
She told police during an interview in January 2013 at one point she was sleeping 24 hours a day because of her depression.
While growing up her parents separated, her father battled alcohol addiction and her step-mother struggled with a drug addiction.
During her teenage years she depended on underage welfare, for lengths of time didn’t have a place to live and stayed in homeless shelters and often couch surfed. She also never lived with a baby in the house and did not have experience caring for babies.
Jenkins said SH met and commenced a relationship with a man identified as RF during 2010 and realized she was pregnant in early 2011. After that relationship ended she again lived in various locations before moving in with another man, referred to as RH, in early September 2011, shortly before her son, N, was born in September 2011. N was born premature.
RH testified the mother was overwhelmed and frustrated with motherhood, but was often receptive to asking for help.
He testified her demeanour was desperate, and that she often told the baby to “shut up‚“ if it was making noise, the judge stated in his written decision.
“Regarding instances of abuse, RH testified to having seen SH strike N on the head when N cried so as to get him to stop crying. RH also witnessed SH pick N up and ‘squeeze’ him, and on another occasion pull N out from under a desk by his wrists and squeeze him for 20 or 30 seconds following which he took N away from her,” the judge stated.
The woman will be sentenced at a later date.
*Editor's note: In the original story posted, we wrongly reported that RH was the baby's father. To clarify, SH moved in with RH one week before she gave birth to baby N. He is not the biological father.