The Court of Appeal overturned a conditional sentence order of two years less a day and a consecutive three year suspended sentence for aggravated assault against an Inuk mother found guilty of committing these offences against her five-year-old child. The Court of Appeal varied the sentence for aggravated assault by imposing a term of imprisonment of two years less a day followed by a three year period of probation to be served consecutively to the two year conditional sentence for failure to provide the necessaries of life. At the joint request of the Crown and defence counsel, Ms. Amaaq’s obligation to serve jail time was stayed to avoid jeopardizing the future welfare of another child who would likely be placed in foster care if she were imprisoned.
The Crown appeals sentences imposed by the Nunavut Court of Justice on December 12, 2019 for two offences the respondent committed against her five-year-old child over an approximately ten-week period – a two-years-less-a-day conditional sentence order for failing to provide the necessaries of life and a consecutive three-year suspended sentence for aggravated assault. The Crown requests that this Court set aside the sentence for aggravated assault and impose a jail term “in the range of 2 years less a day”, as this is the second time the respondent has been convicted of assaulting this child.
The five-year old’s body was covered in bruises and bite marks. He suffered severe internal injuries – a lacerated liver and spleen, a kidney contusion, a fractured rib and an obstructed bowel. The youngster told the examining nurse he could not recall the last time he ate. The child’s height and weight was in the fifteenth percentile for his age.
The sentencing judge tried to produce a sentence faithful to Gladue factors. However, a noncustodial sentence for the aggravated assault conviction fails to take into account Parliament’s direction in section 718.01 of the Criminal Code to “give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence” if the offender abused a person under eighteen years of age. The Court grants leave to appeal and varies the sentence for the aggravated assault conviction by imposing a term of imprisonment of two years less a day followed by a three-year probation period to be served consecutively to the two-year-conditional sentence for the failure to provide the necessaries of life.
The Crown and the respondent asked to stay any custodial sentence that may be imposed to allow the offender to discharge her parental obligations to her four-year-old daughter. The offender has shown no signs that she is a danger to this child or the community. The offender’s daughter would most likely be placed in foster care if the offender was incarcerated. Foster care, would be a poor second choice in these circumstances and would jeopardize the future welfare of yet another of the offender’s children. Had only the respondent’s counsel made this request, the Court most likely would not have granted it, as the Court would be extremely reluctant to dilute, in any way, the message that those who imperil the physical and mental welfare of their offspring are guilty of a grievous breach of trust and merit a term of imprisonment. The youngster’s grandmother has adopted the young boy and assumed the duties and responsibilities of parenthood late in life.