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Shaking baby leads to jail

A Westlock-area man will spend six months behind bars and another 24 months on probation for shaking his four-month-old daughter in 2009 and causing serious injuries to the child.

A Westlock-area man will spend six months behind bars and another 24 months on probation for shaking his four-month-old daughter in 2009 and causing serious injuries to the child.

Judge Charles Gardner delivered his decision Wednesday in Westlock Provincial Court, after a sentencing hearing was concluded in late July.

“I cannot, given the serious injury inflicted on a four-month-old child, consider a sentence without incarceration,” he said.

The man, who cannot be identified under a court-ordered publication ban, pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm earlier this year.

The matter had been put over several times to have pre-sentence reports and assessments done before the sentencing hearing.

An agreed statement of facts laid out the circumstances of the assault. The man was babysitting the child, and she would not stop crying. He made several attempts to contact the mother, to no avail. In his frustration, he shook the baby to get it to stop crying.

Several weeks later some medical issues arose with the child. Whether those issues are related to the assault was the focus of many of the sentencing arguments.

Crown prosecutor Greg Marchant suggested the child had suffered a brain injury as a result of the assault, and asked for a sentence of 18-24 months.

Defence lawyer Bruce Lennon, meanwhile, argued that evidence provided by doctors and the child’s mother suggested the child was developing normally, and that a suspended sentence with probation would be appropriate.

In his decision, Gardner said he found the risk of permanent brain injury could not be ruled out; the child suffered five broken ribs and a subdural hematoma, the medical term for a collection of blood on the surface of the brain.

“The injuries were serious, and with significant effect on the child,” he said.

“Only time will tell. She may have permanent, long-term developmental delays.”

Furthermore, Gardner said the incident amounts to a significant breach of trust, which is an aggravating factor in any crime.

“She was in her home with her father, where she should feel the safest,” he said.

Gardner also found, however, that the incident was isolated and out of character for the man, brought on by a very stressful situation — although he emphasized that does not excuse the act.

“He should have known to be more careful,” he said.

Another issue of contention was whether the man felt remorse for his actions. A pre-sentence report indicated he attempted to “minimize” his role in the incident, Marchant said, and also suggested he was not taking the counselling that he was directed to take.

The mother also indicated she felt he did not show enough concern for the child, as he did not take advantage of all of his visitation rights.

Gardner said that although the man had not taken anger management counselling as required, he had made attempts to seek grief counselling, and was indeed remorseful.

“He has had to bear the weight of what he has done,” he said.