Parents who are unable to take care of their children face the prospect of losing them. But as a recent case out of southern Alberta has shown, parents could also face potential imprisonment for neglect. If you’ve been accused of neglecting your child, you need an Alberta criminal defence lawyer to begin building an immediate defence.

Gruesome Neglect

The details elicited from the southern Alberta court case are something straight out of horror novel. In 2013, an Indigenous couple took their daughter to the hospital, where doctors discovered that the girl was suffering from a massive infection as the result of an untreated tooth infection. The infection had spread to the rest of her face, and abscesses had exposed parts of her jawline while lice had infected her hair. Doctors at the Cardston hospital initially believed that the girl was barely alive. After being flown to Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, the child was given blood transfusions and triple antibiotic therapy.

After the case was reported to police, the parents pleaded guilty in May 2016 to charges of failing to provide their daughter with the necessities of life. The Crown sought 12-18 months in prison while defence counsel sought one year of house arrest.

Even worse for the parents, they seemed not to accept responsibility for what had happened—a fact that did not escape Justice James Langston’s attention. “This child deserved the care and attention of her parents, and they failed her,” Judge Langston said in court. He sentenced the parents to one year in prison.

The ending to the story, however, offers some rays of hope. The Court heard testimony that the girl is recovering from her physical injuries and that she has been receiving psychological therapy for the trauma she has suffered.

Providing the Necessities of Life: It’s the Law

Section 215(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code outlines the duty of all parents, foster parents, guardians, and other heads of family to provide the necessities of life to a child under 16 years old. You also owe a duty to anyone under your charge, regardless of their age. If convicted, you can face imprisonment for up to a term of five years.

But what are the necessities of life that parents and guardians must provide? The statute doesn’t lay out a precise list; but, according to court decisions, necessaries of life “tend to preserve life” and are not necessaries in the ordinary legal sense. The most basic necessities would include food, water, shelter, protection from harm, and medical care. If any of these are denied, then parents could face criminal prosecution.

Contact a Criminal Defence Lawyer in Alberta

If you’ve been criminally accused of neglecting someone under your care, you will need to begin building your defence right away. At Bourdon Defence, we are committed to aggressively representing our clients in their criminal proceedings by thoroughly analyzing the facts and identifying weaknesses in the Crown’s case. Call us today for a consultation at 403-474-4143 or fill out our online contact form.