A woman who admitted beating her teen-aged daughter was sentenced recently to 18 months probation.
The first time she came to court, she said she disciplined the girl, but admitted she had gone too far. She explained she was a single mother who was supporting her daughter without assistance. When the girl was 14, she had a baby, which the woman was also supporting.
Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale noted the woman had no previous convictions and ordered a pre-sentence report.
The woman’s formal plea was ‘guilty with explanation’ to a charge of assault causing actual bodily harm. The girl was 16 when the incident occurred. Since then she became pregnant again.
At the sentencing hearing Crown Counsel Nicole Petit and Defence Attorney Nicholas Dixey provided further background to the charge.
The court heard that the woman arrived home from work one night and found her daughter in the company of an older man in the home. The woman knew him to be about 24 and suspected he was involved in drugs.
The man said he was going to take the girl to a night club. The mother said that was not appropriate. She said the girl should not attend night clubs and should not keep company with the man.
The girl subsequently disappeared and the mother was frantic. In due course the girl reappeared and the mother lost her temper.
She cut a mop stick in two with a machete and used the stick to discipline the girl, causing bruises.
The magistrate said this was a misplaced attempt to redirect the energy of the daughter. ‘What concerns me is how we will go forward.’
A fine was not appropriate because the woman was assisting with the care of her grandchild. A community service order did not arise because that option is only used when the court would have otherwise imposed a prison term.
What would work for the woman was a probation order, which could give her the tools to raise the family, the magistrate said.
Mr. Dixey agreed the woman needed intervention because she had the pressure of working and caring for the grandchild. At the same time, ‘we have to be careful of the message we send out,’ he suggested.
The magistrate said she was not concerned with any message. Her concern was for the woman who now stood convicted. ‘A sentence does not address the offence only,’ she pointed out. ‘I must look at the circumstances of the offence and the offender.’
She said intervention in the family would be far more useful. The officers of the probation services are trained to help.
The magistrate told the woman ‘When you think you’re going mad there are people you can go to, to express your frustration. You can get the support you need.’
She added ‘As angry as you are with your daughter, I know you won’t turn your back on the baby.’