mi-court-regina-qb-2011

Sentencing took place at the Court of Queen's Bench in Regina. (CBC)

A Regina judge has given a three-year prison sentence to a man and a woman whose three-year-old granddaughter was malnourished, injured and neglected while in their care.

"To describe the conduct of each accused as despicable, deplorable and horrendous is to use adjectives that do not adequately describe the conduct," Queen Bench Frank Gerein said Tuesday in a written decision.

The grandparents, who are in their 50s and are from the Fort Qu'Appelle area east of Regina, had previously been convicted at trial of failing to provide the necessities of life.

"The victim ... must have gone through hell," Gerein said. "She was incapable of physical resistence. She could not fend for herself. She could not flee. She could not turn to someone for help. She was a prisoner of the accused and totally at their mercy."

Court heard that in 2007 and 2008, the girl was locked in a furnace room and sometimes not fed. Doctors who examined her said she was underweight and some of her bones were protruding. She may have been emotionally deprived.

"She was frequently struck about the head, once she was literally thrown into a room by [one of the grandparents] and spent considerable time locked in a basement room which was windowless and dark," Gerein said. "It contained only a small child's blanket which lay on the cement floor."

When the couple first got custody of the girl in 2007, she was two, but she had turned three when was removed from the home in 2008.

The grandparents, who defended themselves, said they didn't have sufficient support or resources to properly care for the child, who was in their care because her mother was addicted to drugs.

The grandparents also pointed to the fact they had both gone to residential school, and grown up amid physical and sexual abuse and drug use. 

The judge considered the so-called Gladue principle that requires courts to take into account all reasonable alternatives to jail, with particular attention to aboriginal offenders. In the end, the judge decided that Gladue didn't apply and incarceration was appropriate.

"It is not possible to conclude that poverty, abuse, substance abuse or racism contributed to the wrongful treatment of the victim," Gerein said.

Court heard the girl was taken out of the grandparents' home and is now in good health.

The grandparents, whose names cannot be published because of a publication ban, showed no reaction as Gerein told them they were sentenced to three years in prison. They were taken away in a police van.

It's not known if they will file an appeal, but they have 30 days to do so.