CRIMINAL | The State is in Your Home: Courts punish poor parenting.

AuthorIzadi, Melody

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the middle of a pandemic, are our children really safe?

Two Ontario courts recently punished poor parenting: the Ontario Superior Court in R v CO et al and the Ontario Court of Appeal in R v Lis. Both of these decisions were released during the pandemic and after the Crown had appealed the prior rulings of the initial jurist.

R v CO et al

In R v CO et al, police executed a search warrant on the accused's residence and found their 4-year-old daughter in bedroom on a mattress that smelled like urine. The child was extremely dirty and wearing soiled pyjamas. The child was in a bedroom with a rope tied to the bedroom door to prevent it from opening. The apartment was filled with rotting food, insects, garbage and mould. The accused showed some signs of mental health issues--poor socialization and weak adaptive functioning. Child welfare services removed the child from the home. Police then jointly charged both parents with failing to provide the necessities of life and with forcible confinement. At trial, the judge found the accused not guilty. The judge found the Crown led no evidence of the harm caused by exposure to the unsanitary conditions of the apartment. The judge accepted the parents' evidence that the child was locked in the bedroom from time to time to prevent her from accessing cleaning products.

On appeal, the court found a sanitary environment has been legally deemed a necessity of life. The Crown does not need to prove to the court there was risk of actual harm from the specific sanitary conditions of an environment. The appeal court convicted the accused and sent the case back to the trial judge for sentencing.

On the charges of forcible confinement, the matter was sent back down to the trial court for a new trial. The appeal court found the trial judge did not properly consider whether confining the young child to a bedroom overnight, in an unsanitary room, fell within legally acceptable parenting. Rather, the trial judged erred by finding generally parents have the right to prevent their children's movements for their own safety. It was also held that the trial judge failed to consider why the cleaning products accessible to the child couldn't be moved out of her reach.

R v Lis

In R v Lis, the Ontario Court of Appeal intervened in further bad parenting when a 9-year-old girl died of dehydration and malnutrition. The child who was also developmentally and globally delayed due to her cerebral palsy...

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