Parents have the right to discipline their children but that discipline should never reach the level of abuse.
So said Justice Laurie-Ann Smith-Bovell as she imposed a suspended sentence and compensation on Anecitus Albert, the father who had placed his daughter’s hand on a hot stove to teach her a lesson about stealing.
“The court recognises that while parents have the right to discipline their children, that discipline should never reachthe level of abuse and, let there be no doubt that what occurred in this case is abuse,” the judge said.
“No matter how frustrated a parent may be about anti-social or a predilection of a child to steal, the answer to that problem can never be abuse. There are agencies like the Probation Department, the Juvenile Liaison Scheme, PAREDOS, who assist parents with these types of challenges,”
Justice Smith-Bovell made the comments as Albert reappeared before her in the No. 4 Supreme Court yesterday.
Albert, of St Paul’s Avenue, Bayville, St Michael, had pleaded guilty to the lesser, alternate count of unlawfully and maliciously inflicting serious bodily harm on his then 12-year-old daughter, on July 17, 2018.
He had denied causing her serious bodily harm with intent on the same date.
He was represented by attorney Steve Gollop, while State Counsel Kevin Forde appeared for the prosecution.
Justice Smith-Bovell sentenced Albert to two years, 363 days in jail, but suspended it for three years.
She also ordered him to pay $15 000 compensation, of which $8 000 was due immediately. The remainder must be paid by October 31, or Albert will spend two years, 363 days in jail in default.
“Article XII of the Rights Of The Child states that every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them and to have their views considered and taken seriously,” the judge noted.
“The court acknowledges and respects the view of the virtual complainant when she says she wants a relationship with her father and does not want him incarcerated.
“The court, having seen and spoken to the complainant, is of the view that it is in the best interest of the complainant, with the right counselling to facilitate such, that the complainant should maintain a relationship with her father as per her wishes,” Justice Smith-Bovell said.
She said she had considered that six years was an appropriate starting point for his sentence. She considered the then age of the girl and that the offence was committed by her father whose responsibility it was to protect and not harm her.
The judge further noted she had considered the type of injury that was inflicted – placing and holding the child’s hand on a hot stove, and that the father had not sought medical attention for her nor informed her mother about the injury.
She said the only mitigating feature in the offence was that Albert had placed the girl’s hand in cold water and ice which had reduced the burning“to some degree”.
Justice Smith-Bovell also pointed to the man’s guilty plea, his remorse, his clean record and that he had been deemed as having a low risk of re-offending.
The court had heard the complainant went to a shop and purchased some items. She returned home and hid the change in her purse.
Later that evening her uncle visited the home and informed her father that some money had gone missing from his vehicle.
The father questioned the girl, who eventually admitted she had taken it. She retrieved the remaining money and handed it over.
The father expressed his disappointment and when the uncle left, he told his daughter to call her mother and ask for the outstanding balance.
Sometime later, Albert took the girl into the kitchen and lit the stove. He then lit a match and told her he was going to burn her fingers.
However, the girl started squirming and the match went out. The father then pulled his daughter’s left hand towards the naked flame of the burner.
As she tried to pull away her hand, he slapped her in the face and put her hand over the flame. As she started to scream, he pressed her hand on the burner of the stove. He then removed her hand and placed it under running water.
He told her that in other countries people got their hands cut off for stealing and this was his way of punishing her.