An Edmonton mother who intentionally broke her two-year-old daughter’s ankles and failed to seek medical attention has been found guilty of assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessities of life.
The woman, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, was also found guilty of intentionally fracturing her daughter’s left arm up to eight weeks prior.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Wayne Renke found beyond reasonable doubt the woman — who was 22 at the time — had applied force to the child’s legs “sufficient to break both her ankles.”
In a voluminous written decision, Renke concluded the woman must have been aware of the excruciating pain her child was in, and of the swelling and bruising to her ankles, yet she still failed to take her to a doctor or emergency room. The child was finally taken to hospital five days later.
The court documents refer to the child only as A.B.
“(She) knew or should have known that by failing to get medical attention for A.B. she was not only prolonging A.B.’s pain and misery, she was putting her health and future mobility at risk,” Renke wrote.
The mother’s “failure to obtain medical attention for A.B. was not simply an error of judgement, carelessness, or thoughtlessness,” Renke wrote.
“It was not simply conduct that failed to meet the standard of a reasonably prudent parent, but conduct that fell so far short of meeting the standard of the reasonably prudent parent that it was morally blameworthy, meriting criminal punishment,” he wrote.
A trial began last September and lasted for 13 days. A written decision was published late last month.
During the trial, the mother said she believed the injuries were from when A.B. fell off the toilet seat onto the floor as she was readying for a bath in March 2016.
The mother said she managed to prevent her daughter’s head from hitting the floor, but her left foot hit a plastic garbage pail near the toilet during the fall and that she landed “like a frog” and “both ankles hit the floor really hard.”
Following the fall, which happened on a Sunday night, the mother said her daughter screamed and cried for about 10 minutes, but she thought it was because she was scared and had had a fright.
The woman said she noticed A.B. couldn’t walk the next day and her legs couldn’t bear weight. The little girl refused to walk and could only move around by crawling with her feet in the air.
The woman’s partner testified there was no bruising or swelling and the little girl was not crying or screaming. He nonetheless encouraged the woman to take the child to a doctor, but she failed to do so.
Court heard the mother repeatedly tried to force the little girl to stand, but the child couldn’t. The child was also suffering from the flu, which the mother thought was making her weak and unwilling to walk.
The next Friday, the woman was dressing her daughter and put rubber boots on her. She said they were a bit snug so she used “some force,” and again didn’t notice any swelling or bruising.
She dropped the child off with her parents in a neighbouring city and explained the little girl wasn’t walking but she didn’t know why. She never mentioned the fall from the toilet.
On the Saturday, the young girl’s grandparents noticed she was in pain and couldn’t move around. They also noticed swelling in the legs, which is when they took the girl to hospital.
A doctor immediately saw the bruising and ordered X-rays, which showed two undisplaced fractures of the left ankle and a broken left tibia and fibular.
The right ankle was similarly broken, however expert witnesses said it was caused “by more violent force” than the left ankle.
Those same expert witnesses discounted the mother’s explanation that the fall caused the injuries and testified that the injury was similar to what is experienced when a pedestrian is hit by a car. They said the type of injuries suffered “would be almost unheard of in children of this age.”
“It would not be caused by a fall, unless from a very substantial height, as from a balcony,” one of the experts testified.
The woman admitted in early February to causing the fractured arm by jerking the child’s arm upwards with “aggressive speed” to pull her away from juice that had spilled on the floor. She admitted she used “excessive force.”
The same experts, however, said the fractures to the girl’s radius and humerus were unlikely to have been caused “by a parent tugging or pulling on a child’s arm.”
“The fracture to the radius was caused by a compression force not a tension force,” one expert testified.
Renke said it was clear the fall from the toilet did not break the girl’s ankles and the injuries were “caused by intentional human agency.”
A defence expert explored the possibility that the child had a genetic bone disease. However Renke, based on the evidence, disregarded that argument, saying the injuries were consistent with “some high energy event.”
The woman has yet to be sentenced.
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