‘You are a disgrace to all mothers,’ Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale told a pregnant woman who pleaded guilty to wilful neglect of four juvenile children.
The defendant, 33, admitted she was sleeping at some other home every night and leaving the children alone.
According to a report read to by Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale, the oldest child was unable to manage the others and they were unable to manage themselves.
The home was in shambles, damaged by Hurricane Ivan. The children’s room was a mess, with dirty clothes on the floor mixed with old food and dirt.
Two of the children had sores on their bodies, which were not healing because of malnutrition. One child had lost his glasses, but no effort had been made to replace them.
Noting that the defendant earned $625 every two weeks, the magistrate said it was a disgrace that she would leave the children ‘in that hovel’ and spend her time elsewhere.
‘Whatever you say about the storm – even the meanest room doesn’t have to be unsanitary,’ the magistrate told the woman at an earlier court appearance.
The report referred to the defendant’s unstable background, lack of education and low impulse control, plus previous involvement by authorities in the family situation. Irresponsibility was a constant feature of her parenting and her response to life, the magistrate noted.
Prison would be an appropriate sentence, she indicated, but a pre-sentence report had recommended probation.
The magistrate had involved both a probation officer and social worker in the matter. Despite her own strong views on the matter, she indicated she must allow herself to be guided by the report and be slow to incarcerate.
‘I can’t see how probation can help you, but it is recommended,’ the magistrate said. ‘This is a test case. You should appeal against me,’ she told Crown Counsel Andre Mon Desir.
The magistrate rejected the explanation that the defendant was ‘too simple’ to recognise the children’s needs. She described her as unfit and directed that, when the new baby is born, it should be taken from the defendant.
The other children are now elsewhere.
When the defendant first came to court in January, the magistrate had spoken with her at length. The defendant, for whom the new baby will be her seventh, promised she would not have anymore.
The sentence of probation was for one year, under the supervision of the Probation Department and Social Services working together. Costs of $150 were also ordered.