'Our children are vulnerable': Judge sentences Calgary mother to 3 years in prison for son's strep death
Tamara Lovett, 48, was convicted of criminal negligence causing death after her 7-year-old boy died in 2013
A Calgary mother convicted in her son's "senseless" death after failing to take the bedridden seven-year-old to a doctor for his treatable strep infection was sentenced to three years in prison Friday.
Tamara Lovett, 48, was found guilty in January of criminal negligence causing the death of her son, Ryan, who died in 2013.
"Our children are vulnerable," said Court of Queen's Bench Justice Kristine Eidsvik. "[Lovett's] actions resulted in the senseless death of an innocent child who needed her protection."
Defence lawyer Alain Hepner had proposed a jail term of one year plus probation, while the Crown argued Lovett should spend four to five years in prison.
"This sentence of three years really pales in comparison to the life sentence she's received already for being responsible for the death of her child," Hepner said.
Eidsvik noted the sentence was also designed to deter other parents from failing their children in the same way. A message prosecutor Jonathan Hak said was made clear.
"If your child is not getting better, you are legally and morally bound to take your child to an actual doctor for actual medical care."
Lovett's sentence was handed down shortly after the judge denied her defence lawyer's Jordan application, which argued Lovett's rights were violated because it took too long for her case to make it through the court system.
"It would not be just to set aside a conviction and issue a stay," said Eidsvik in delivering her decision Friday morning.
Hepner had asked the judge to direct a stay of proceedings under new Supreme Court guidelines that put hard timelines on what is considered unreasonable delay.
The Superior Court judge also took the opportunity to comment on what she characterized as "staggering" court delay in Alberta.
"In a perfect world that we are far removed from here in Alberta the case could have been heard within 11 months."
In 2013, Ryan deteriorated in his mother's apartment for 10 days and was never taken to a doctor.
On the night of March 2, 2013, Lovett called 911 after finding Ryan on the floor in their apartment. He was dead when paramedics arrived.
Lovett testified she believed Ryan had a cold or flu and treated him with holistic remedies such as dandelion tea and oil of oregano.
Eidsvik heard evidence at the trial that Ryan also had meningitis and pneumonia on top of strep. Doctors testified his infection would have been treatable had he been prescribed antibiotics.
In assessing Lovett's moral blameworthiness, Eidsvik found Ryan "was completely dependent on his mother for using common sense in treatment choices" and died "an excruciating, unnecessary death."
'I can't begin to forgive myself'
During sentencing arguments, Lovett spoke through tears about the agony she's suffered since losing her son.
She said she no longer holds the same beliefs and would take her son to a doctor if she could turn back time.
"[I] can't begin to forgive myself," said Lovett. "I hope others learn from my ignorance."
Lovett, who had been on bail until Friday, was escorted into custody by a sheriff after the judge handed down the sentence.
A pre-sentence psychiatric report found Lovett feels helpless, hopeless and struggles with depression.
Eiskvik found Lovett's remorse to be genuine and noted the loss of Ryan was already a "severe punishment"
"Tamara Lovett killed her child, that's a terrible thing for her to live with," said Hak. "I don't know what justice is in a case like that."