Justice Paul Worsley ordered a woman to spend the night in Fairbanks Prison before placing her on probation last week for assault causing actual bodily harm to her 10-year-old son.
The boy’s injuries included a fracture to his hand.
Crown counsel Darlene Oko explained that the boy’s parents were separated and he spent weekends with his father and weekdays with his mother and her new partner, plus a sibling.
The incident occurred when the mother was having an argument with someone and the boy intervened, thinking he should tell “the truth” about some aspect of the situation. The mother felt he was being disrespectful: she grabbed him by the shirtfront and slapped him multiple times in the face, including his mouth and nose. As a result of the blows, the boy fell to the floor, hitting his head on a wall. His hand hit a door jamb, causing a fracture.
The mother’s partner phoned the boy’s father and asked that he come check on his son. The father called police and went to the residence.
One of the police officers who responded to the report was told by the mother that she had disciplined her son by slapping him in the face. The officer advised her that there were other ways to discipline a child and not use force.
Meanwhile, the father took the boy home with him. He observed that the boy’s right hand appeared swollen on the top; his head was swollen in two places and his forehead was swollen on the left side. Two days later, a social worker and a police officer visited the father’s house and observed the boy’s injuries.
The boy was taken to hospital for examination and his hand was placed in a cast.
Defense attorney Prathna Bodden said the facts as presented were agreed to, except for the number of blows. The mother accepted that he had fallen as a result, but she never intended to cause any injuries.
Justice Worsley accepted that the defendant did not intend to break the boy’s hand, but he pointed out that she did not even call for help after the injury occurred. There was no intention to cause injury, but the extent of the risk would have been obvious to most people, he said. One blow that caused the boy to go to the ground must have been quite significant, the judge added.
Ms. Bodden said there had been behavioral problems, and the boy’s report cards indicated he was giving trouble in school as well.
“Youngsters can be tiresome and troubling,” the judge agreed. “It doesn’t help anyone to hit your child when he is giving difficulty.”
Ms. Bodden said the boy’s behavior had improved since the incident and the home relationships had improved. The mother was very sorry about the injuries caused. She was hard-working and had no previous convictions; a sentence of imprisonment would have significant impact on her life because no employer wants to see a criminal record.
Justice Worsley said his immediate reaction had been to send the defendant to prison straightaway, but after hearing from Ms. Bodden he postponed his decision until the next day and the woman would go into custody overnight to get a taste of it.
The next day, he told the woman that he would not give her a full one-third discount for her guilty plea because she had waited until the matter was listed for trial. The boy had already been summoned to give evidence. The discount therefore would be 25 percent.
He said he accepted that the boy had on occasion been rude and disobedient, but on this occasion she had hit him so hard in the face that he fell to the floor – an unacceptable degree of force. Thankfully, there was no lasting physical injury. It was a serious incident, but he trusted it was an isolated one.
He considered that the offense had crossed the custody threshold, but given her previous good character and remorse, he was prepared to suspend a sentence of nine months for two years. He made the order under the Alternative Sentencing Law to help her deal with her “chaotic lifestyle and gambling, which affect your care of family members.”
He warned that if she commits an offense in the next two years she will go to prison for the nine months.