An Ottawa woman who assaulted and failed to care for the boy she legally adopted — as his father, a former Ottawa Mountie, tortured and starved him and kept him tied up in the basement of their family home — has been given a three-year sentence.
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In November, after a lengthy trial, the woman was found guilty of assault with a weapon and failing to provide the necessaries of life for the boy. Her husband — the boy's biological father — was found guilty of aggravated assault, sexual assault causing bodily harm, forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessaries of life.
The pair cannot be named due to a court-ordered publication ban that protects the identity of the boy. He was 11 years old when his parents were arrested in 2013, and is now 14.
His father had been suspended from the RCMP without pay, but was fired on Dec. 11, about three weeks after he was found guilty. His sentencing is expected in March.
Woman 'stood idly by'
On Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger told court that details of the trial were "painful to listen to" and that what happened to the boy was "outrageous."
He said the boy's adoptive mother "stood idly by" while her husband committed extreme abuse, and that her crimes were "crimes of omission."
But Maranger added that she and her husband "are worlds apart" in terms of responsibility for what happened, and that hitting the boy with a wooden spoon was a "minor infraction" compared to her husband's actions.
There were also "plausible inferences" made during the trial that she was conflicted, didn't know what to do, or was afraid of her husband," Maranger said, adding that he believes she's "very remorseful."
He sentenced her to three years. With credit for time already served in custody under strict bail conditions, she'll serve about another 17 months. Where she'll serve that remaining time — in prison or in jail — will be left for corrections officials to decide.
She was also ordered to give a DNA sample, is banned from owning weapons for 10 years, and must not communicate with her son's family while she's incarcerated.
Crown wanted 5-year term, defence wanted less than 2
In court last month, the Crown asked for a five-year prison sentence — the maximum sentence possible for failing to provide the necessaries of life — arguing that the woman is smart and educated but withheld food from the starving boy.
She was on maternity leave "and made no conscious effort to feed him or protect him," Crown attorney Marie Dufort argued.
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Defence lawyer Anne London-Weinstein, meanwhile, asked for a jail sentence of one year and nine months, arguing that while the stepmother's conduct was grossly negligent, it wasn't "intentionally cruel."
The boy's aunt — the sister of his birth mother — told court in a victim impact statement last month her family has been left "shattered" by the ordeal.
At one point, she addressed the stepmother directly, saying she "totally abandoned" her duty to the boy, making dinner for the rest of her family while she knew the boy was starving and chained in the basement.
"I thought you were a kind person," the aunt told her.
The boy's stepmother sat in the prisoner's box with her head down, crying.
Boy said he knows he needs help
After the aunt's statement in December, the boy appeared via a pre-recorded video played in the courtroom.
The boy looked healthy, though his voice sometimes cracked. He said he avoids answering questions about the scars on his body and he's reminded in the shower about what he endured when he sees the red marks around his ankles from his restraints.
He said he knows he needs psychological help, and he one day hopes to be able to put the memories aside.
The boy also said he sometimes cries randomly and he hates it when people get mad at him, which makes him feel like he should get on his knees and say sorry.
While being hurt by his father in the basement, he remembers thinking that if he ever had children, he wouldn't do that to them, the boy said.