A Port Alberni mother was given a two-year prison sentence Friday, followed by three years of probation for the violent shaking of her infant.
The Port Alberni woman opted not to speak before receiving the sentence Friday in Port Alberni Provincial Court after four days of deliberations. Her name is being withheld by a publication ban to protect the identity of the young victim.
The mother was convicted of aggravated assault after an 11-day trial last July for the shaking incident, which occurred on May 12, 2011. Before announcing the sentence on Friday, Supreme Court Justice Robin Baird explained that the assault occurred after a particularly “profane” and “abusive” argument the mother had with the child’s father. The man left in anger, leaving the mother to take out her frustrations by bouncing the sevenmonth-old on an air mattress until the child stopped breathing.
Baird said the infant would not have survived without immediate medical attention.
After the assault, the mother sought medical attention for the child. The infant was taken to the West Coast General Hospital, then airlifted to a hospital in Victoria. The child suffered a brain hemorrhage and partial paralysis from the incident.
This required weeks of tube feeding over a month at the Victoria hospital and a following month at the Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children in Vancouver, according to sources from the family.
Baird said the woman had shown limited signs of accountability for the crime.
“She lacks insight and her acceptance of responsibility has been very late in coming,” he said, noting that the mother was more prone to blame the father for the infant’s injuries, based on psychiatric evaluations done earlier this year. “She was still putting about this blame transfer.”
“Remorse is a sliding scale,” said
Crown Counsel Todd Patola in the courtroom Friday.
The prosecutor added that all the mother had done to accept responsibility for her assault on the child was to say, “I did it.”
“Simply saying those words does not provide much assistance to the court,” Patola said.
Defence lawyer Peter Gibb suggested a nine-month sentence, based on rulings from a long list of other assault cases involving infants, including an attack on a three-month-old that resulted in broken bones and severe brain damage. That offender, who was on probation at the time of the assault, received a twoyear sentence. In another case presented by Gibb, a baby was violently shaken on eight different occasions, bringing an 18-month-sentence.
Gibb stated that the Port Alberni child has recovered from the shaking incident, and that the injuries were not as severe as some of the cases he cited. “The issue is how much damage is done,” he said.
Baird noted inconsistent messages from the mother and her defense attorney. During her consultations with a doctor, the mother had presented photographs of bruises on the baby, which she claimed came from a fall at the fault of the father one month before the shaking incident. Baird said this contradicted Gibb’s claim that the infant was in good health after the shaking incident.
“What in the world am I supposed to make of that?” asked the judge.
A source from the family said that the child is currently in good health, although it has not been determined if a learning disability will result from the shaking incident until the youngster is at least eight years of age. The father has since gained custody of the child. The convicted mother has two other children from different fathers, both of whom are under the care of her parents. Under the conditions of her sentence, the mother will not be able to come into contact with anyone under four years of age, excepting visiting her other children.