Couple acquitted of most orphan abuse charges

CALGARY — A judge has rejected most of the evidence against a couple accused of subjecting three orphaned siblings in their care to horrific abuse, but has convicted the woman on some charges.

The children’s aunt was found guilty Tuesday of assault related to hitting the two eldest girls with wooden spoons and other objects, as well as to pulling their lips and pinching their tongues. Their uncle was acquitted of all assault and criminal negligence charges.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sandy Park said he did not accept a raft of other disturbing allegations levelled against the pair, including that the children were forced to eat their own vomit, had to wear soiled diapers and had their tongues pierced with needles and burned with barbecue lighters.

The children’s parents were killed in a car crash in the United States in 2006 and the kids, who were all under 10, were adopted by their maternal aunt and uncle, who moved them to Calgary.

The two girls and one boy had also been in the crash, but police pulled them from the fiery wreck.

None of those involved can be named due to a publication ban.

Park said the eldest girl, now a young adult, was angry with her aunt and was malicious.

“I find that her anger and dislike has now morphed into a vindictive attitude which is reflected in an exaggeration in her testimony,” he said as he delivered his verdict.

He said the eldest girl wanted her aunt to “have her just deserts through a police investigation and perhaps a subsequent criminal charge.”

He also noted a lack of medical evidence for the injuries the children reported.

Park found the woman guilty of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm against the two older girls.

Because there were multiple related offences, she will only be sentenced on the more serious ones — two of assault with a weapon — at a hearing scheduled for next week.

The judge found none of the allegations related to the youngest of the trio, the couple’s nephew, warranted a conviction. He said the boy’s evidence was unreliable.

The judge described the assault committed by the aunt as a misguided attempt at corporal punishment, and noted similar disciplinary measures were widespread in the 1950s and 1960s.

The couple’s defence counsel declined to comment after the verdict.

Prosecutor Ken McCaffrey said the siblings stand by everything they said in court.

“They’re happy that there was some acknowledgment by the court of the harm done to them, and that the female accused will have a criminal record and she will be held accountable for that,” he said.

“But obviously the eldest child is quite upset that not everything she said was believed, understandably.”

He said the Crown will be seeking significant time behind bars — at least a year — for the woman.

“You have to remember that this woman has been convicted of essentially four serious criminal offences: assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm against two children.”

McCaffrey also said the Crown will be poring over the decision before deciding whether to appeal.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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