Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dad pleads guilty to--then denies--abusing 6-week-old son (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)

Dad is identified as PHILIP JASON BOWDEN.

Judge quashes guilty plea after father denies injuring baby

Court Reporter

Published April 1, 2014 - 2:40pm
Last Updated April 1, 2014 - 9:03pm

A judge has struck down a Halifax man’s guilty plea in a child abuse case.

Philip Jason Bowden, 39, pleaded guilty in January to a summary charge of assault causing bodily harm and was supposed to be sentenced Friday in Halifax provincial court.

But Judge Anne Derrick said comments by Bowden in his presentence report, in which he denied hurting his infant son, caused her to have “grave concerns” about the validity of his guilty plea.

“I feel quite uncomfortable right now about this case,” Derrick said.

Bowden’s six-week-old son was admitted to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax in August 2012 with life-threatening injuries. The baby had severe bleeding on the brain and was experiencing seizures. Doctors described his prognosis as grim.

Crown attorney Christine Driscoll said the child was left with “significant” disabilities.

Bowden was originally charged with the indictable offences of aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessities of life. The Crown agreed to accept a guilty plea on the lesser charge because of “evidentiary difficulties” with its case, Driscoll said.

But in an interview for his presentence report, Bowden did not accept responsibility for his alleged actions.

Bowden flatly denied shaking or slapping his son and only admitted to “lightly tapping” him on the face to get his attention. If this is considered wrong, he said, then “a million parents are guilty of this.”

He said the circumstances of the matter have been “twisted” and he has been “drug over the coals for this.”

Bowden acknowledged that “something happened” to the baby but said the injuries were not caused by him, alluding that the child’s mother was responsible.

Despite those comments, defence lawyer Lyle Howe said his client wished to proceed with sentencing.

Driscoll said Bowden’s denial of responsibility bothered the Crown.

“It’s the first time in my career, Your Honour, that I’m concerned about a miscarriage of justice,” Driscoll said. “I just want to put that on the record.”

The judge said that was a significant statement coming from someone such as Driscoll, “who conducts herself to the highest standards of the profession.”

After a brief recess, Derrick quashed the guilty plea.

Bowden will return to court April 22 to set dates for a trial on the two original charges.

“I have to put some thought into whether I can proceed with this matter ethically,” Howe told the court.

Derrick asked counsel to consider whether another judge should conduct the trial.

Bowden remains free on bail with conditions of house arrest.