Monday, April 22, 2024

Young mum reprimanded


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There was a stern reprimand for the 22-year-old mother who admitted kicking her then nine-month-old baby in the head last year and praise for the stepfather who outed her on Facebook.

“A nine-month-old baby cannot defend his or her own self; a five-year-old child cannot defend his or her own self; not even a ten-year-old or a 15-year-old,” Magistrate Kristie Cuffy-Sargeant declared yesterday.

“These children rely on us as parents, as adults, not to cause harm or injury to them, but to protect them. It is your responsibility as an adult to care for that child, to provide for that child to the best of your ability,” Magistrate Cuffy-Sargeant told an emotionless Latoya Joyann Morris, who stood in the dock of the District “A” Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Morris, a cleaner of Block 1, 11G, Eden Lodge Housing Area, St Michael, had confessed, after initially pleading not guilty to the charge that being a person over 16, who had custody of a child under 16 – nine months old – she willfully assaulted her daughter on October 22, last year. The child is currently in the care of her grandmother. She was released on $500 bail until May 22 and will be the subject of a pre-sentencing report in the interim.


Foot on head

But Morris, who said she did not know she was being recorded, denied she kicked the child.

“I put my foot on her head,” she said.

The first-time offender was charged under the Prevention Of Cruelty To Children Act, Cap 145, which provides a penalty of a $120 fine or one year in prison in default of payment on indictment, or a fine of $24 or three months in default upon summary conviction. Morris was charged summarily.

The magistrate noted that Morris, who has two other children, ages two and four, had indicated she and the baby’s stepfather had an argument on that date.

But the magistrate said that was no reason to take her anger out on the child.

“If there was an argument, if there was an issue between you and the child’s [step]father, you got to deal with the child’s [step]father. The child must not be involved at all.

“In other words your anger, whether you are upset at the child’s [step]father or not, the two of you as parents, as adults, deal with it in the absence of the children,” Magistrate Cuffy-Sargeant told the young woman.

The magistrate further noted Morris could have called the police for help as there was “an active group of officers who go into the community to help persons”.


Praised stepfather

The magistrate praised stepfather Rommell Codrington for the action he took in reporting the matter to the Child Care Board and eventually posting the video to Facebook.

“Very often fathers are chastised for not taking care of their children. In this case we have to commend the child’s [step]father for doing the right thing. When it is right, I say it is right. When it is wrong, I say it is wrong. We have to commend the father in this case for doing the right thing,” the magistrate declared.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Social Care employee Ronald Hercules had earlier told the court that Morris was a participant in the Ministry’s Strengthening Human and Social Development Programme and had been since last December.

That programme was for two years and involved Morris’ entire family. He added the acts in the video predated her involvement in the programme.

 “In my time visiting her home, I have not seen her being abusive to the child or her other children,” he told the court.

“If there is a problem I can assure you we will help in any way. We also have a programme in parenting and I guess, from this incident, we will work towards that; but from my interaction with her, I have seen no evidence of that behaviour,” Hercules said. (HLE)


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