Friday, February 19, 2010

Dad found guilty of aggravated assault of 5-month-old son (Yellowknife, NT, Canada)

Fairly typical scenario. Mom was working while UNNAMED DAD was "caretaking." The baby suffered a near fatal subdural hematoma, apparently from being shaken. The perpetrator is described as a "good dad" who got "frustrated." If this is a "good dad," then what is a "bad dad"?

Father found guilty of assaulting baby

Tim Edwards
Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 19, 2010

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - A 31-year-old Yellowknife man is in jail awaiting sentencing after a territorial Supreme Court judge found him guilty last week of aggravated assault on his five-month-old son in 2007.

On Oct. 22, 2007, the bruised child was brought into Stanton Territorial Hospital's emergency room by his father, who told doctors he'd given the child a bottle of milk, left, and returned to the room to find him having a seizure. His wife, the child's mother, was working a three-week shift at a diamond mine north of Yellowknife at the time.

The child was medevaced to Edmonton where he underwent brain surgery to repair a subdural hematoma, which is pooling of blood between layers of the brain's protective covering.

"Without this surgical intervention, this child would have died," said Justice John Vertes, who had heard testimony from doctors stationed in both Yellowknife and Edmonton during the trial.

When questioned by doctors, the father told them his other, older son had hit the baby with a toy truck a week earlier, and the baby had also rolled off the couch onto the floor around the same time. The man attributed the bruises and injury to these events.

However, three Yellowknife doctors told the court the bruises were fresh and still developing when the baby was brought in.

Dr. Melanie Lewis, a pediatrician at Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton - where the child was treated after being medevaced from Yellowknife - said the injuries required some sort of "significant force."

The man was interrogated three times by the RCMP, but it was not until his third statement, given at 10:47 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2007, that he told police the story he would swear by for the rest of the investigation and his trial.

The man said he was carrying the child on the night of the hospitalization in a darkened room, where he slipped on a toy, falling onto a mattress and on top the child. He testified to hearing a "pop" and then the baby started crying, but said the baby calmed down and went to sleep.

Both Crown prosecutor Shannon Smallwood and Vertes were put off by how late this seemingly vital information was told to authorities.

"I have no hesitation in rejecting the accused's statement of events," said Vertes on the day of the man's sentencing, Feb. 12.

Defence lawyer Thomas Boyd said the man was afraid to admit he had fallen on his child out of fear that the child would be taken from him by child services.

Lewis testified the guilty party's version of events were unlikely to have led to the sort of brain injuries sustained by the baby.

Dr. Vivek Mehta, the surgeon who operated on the baby, said the injury is usually caused by movement of the brain inside the skull and not so much by pure blunt force, such as would be exhibited in a fall.

"What we come back to is a story about the fall that none of the experts agree could have caused the injury," said Vertes, adding that most experts said there must have been force exerted on the baby by a person.

Friends of the man, who had been around him and his children, described him as a good father who, at most, got frustrated with his two young children from time to time. Vertes asserted that as frustrated as he may have been, hurting his child displayed a serious fault in his character.

"Any reasonable person would realize that subjecting a five-month-old child to such force would cause the child significant injury," said Vertes.

Boyd asked Vertes to allow a pre-sentence report to be compiled before sentencing occurs, and Smallwood consented.

Sentencing is slated for May 18. Though the man had not been in custody during the trial, he was jailed following his conviction.