Calgary

Lethbridge mother who left child in freezing car while at a bar receives conditional discharge

The mother, 25, and another woman, 31, were charged following the December 2016 incident with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their children, who were left unattended.

Another mom facing charges in relation to this incident will appear in court later this year

Lethbridge police charged two women with failing to provide the necessaries of life after two children were left unattended in a vehicle for more than an hour on Dec. 15, 2016. (Patrick Burles)
  A Lethbridge mother who pleaded guilty to leaving her young child in a freezing car while she went to a bar was given a conditional discharge with one year probation on Wednesday.

The mother, 25, and another woman, 31, were charged following the December 2016 incident with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their two children, who were left unattended.

The two women cannot be named to protect the identities of the children.

While reading his decision, Judge Gerald DeBow said the case was different and should be distinguished from other similar cases, in large part to the effort the defendant put into her "healing journey" since she was charged.

"This case has unique circumstances where she has done so much to deal with so much and establish herself," he said. 

DeBow praised the woman for her "wholehearted" efforts in counselling, education and abstaining from drugs and alcohol.

The woman's lawyer, Darcy Shurtz, said his client went from being a "fish out of water to a responsible and caring parent."

He said his client is pleased with the outcome.

"She's very happy about the judge's decision," he said. "She realizes she's very lucky, given the circumstances, not to have been given a criminal record. She plans to take advantage and continue her education."

Shurtz said the fact the his client had no previous criminal record, and had taken "more steps than most people that come through the criminal justice system to turn her life around" played a role in the judge's decision.

"It really showed that she realized the mistake she had made and one she isn't going to make in the future," he said,

Although Crown Erin Olsen agreed the defendant was remorseful and had done a "remarkable amount of work" since the incident, she disagreed with a conditional discharge. She had asked the judge to sentence the woman to three to six months jail time, followed by six to nine months probation. 

A March 2018 trial date has been set for the 31-year-old. She was originally set to appear last December, but it had to be delayed due to an expert witness for the Crown being unavailable. 

Children treated for mild hypothermia

According to an agreed statement of facts, Lethbridge police were called to the 200 block of Fifth Street S. just before 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2016, after witnesses heard a child crying in a white SUV. The vehicle was parked, turned off and locked.

When officers arrived, they smashed a front window. They found a three-year-old girl inside.

  A further search discovered a four-year-old boy under a pile of jackets. Both children were wearing winter coats; however, the temperature outside was –18 C and it was snowing. 

The children were taken to hospital and treated from mild hypothermia.

  Police then searched the surrounding area and found the 25-year-old mother intoxicated inside a nearby bar called Studio 54. 

She told officers she was there with the 31-year-old mom and they had forgotten about their children.

  Police said surveillance footage from the bar showed they had been there for more than an hour. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson or reach her by email at lucie.edwardson@cbc.ca

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