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Mother gets 7-year sentence in manslaughter of 5-year-old daughter

·3 min read
An Edmonton mother was handed a seven-year sentence for her daughter's manslaughter death. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)
An Edmonton mother was handed a seven-year sentence for her daughter's manslaughter death. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press - image credit)

An Edmonton judge says that a sentence of time served and probation wouldn't be enough to denounce violence against children, as she sentenced a mother in the manslaughter death of her five-year-old.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Avril Inglis sentenced the woman, who is in her 30s, to seven years in prison less credit for eight months already spent in custody.

Neither the woman nor her daughter can be named because of a court-ordered publication ban.

During the trial earlier this year, court heard the little girl and her two siblings were living were their mother in October 2015, after having spent years living in care in foster homes.

The judge-alone trial heard that the mother called 911 on Oct. 13, 2015, to report that one of her three children was breathing but wouldn't wake up.

An ambulance arrived at an apartment in northwest Edmonton and took the girl to hospital, where she died four days later.

Court heard from a medical expert that a pathologist testified that the girl's cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Manslaughter conviction

The mother had faced charges of second-degree murder, failure to provide the necessaries of life and assault with weapons, including a belt and a spatula.

But in her verdict this May, Inglis found that the Crown had failed to prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, she convicted the mother of manslaughter, finding that the girl's severe brain injuries were caused by an assault and the only person in the home capable of causing them was the mother.

Crown prosecutors argued the woman should receive a sentence of seven to eight years, while defence lawyer Peter Royal argued his client should get time served plus three years probation.

Royal argued that his client was herself a vulnerable person. A Gladue report received by the court detailed that the woman was physically and sexually abused as a child, that she has dealt with addictions, and that she fled abuse from her children's father.

Court heard the woman, who is a member of an Edmonton-area First Nation, has family members who are residential school survivors.

Royal also asked Inglis to consider the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in her sentencing.

However, in her decision, Inglis found that Royal had failed to justify the sentence he was asking for, and that he hadn't shown how details of this case differed from cases with similar circumstances where longer sentences were meted out.

Inglis said in coming to a sentence of seven years, she considered a number of mitigating factors including the mother's background and prospect for rehabilitation. Inglis also noted that the five-year-old was also First Nations, and that there are many calls to action that focus on child welfare.

The judge said that despite the women's sympathetic background, the court must not lose sight of the fact that she caused her daughter's death through significant force. Inglis said a sentence of eight months doesn't reflect that.

There were no victim impact statements submitted to the court. Inglis did note that people other than the mother were grieving the little girl, including her extended relatives and two surviving siblings.

As she finished delivering the sentence, the judge addressed the mother.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Inglis said.

The woman was also ordered to provide a DNA sample to a national database, and will be under a 10-year weapons prohibition upon release.

During sentencing arguments, Royal said his client plans to file an appeal of her conviction.

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