Belize City mom avoids jail over harm to child]

A single mother of five children including three teenagers from Belize City will avoid jail on a charge of grievous harm as long as she continues to get counseling for her family and personal problems. Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith ordered a suspended sentence of nine months’ imprisonment for  the 33 year old mother after hearing mitigation pleas today. We have opted to not disclose the name of the mother for the sake of the child involved. The mother admitted to placing her then-five year old son’s left hand over a flaming stove for five minutes last October 16, 2014, after he was caught playing with a cigarette lighter and attempting to set her house curtains on fire. The mother decided to show her son the effects of playing with fire, and as a result he sustained second-degree burns to his left hand. She pleaded guilty to the charge and the court heard that the mother was suffering from depression for which she is seeking counseling.  Since the incident, she is also said to  be suffering from a heart condition which sent her into the hospital for a period of time.  Her heart condition caused her stress and fatigue. However, the Chief Magistrate noted that the action was cruel on the child and that the mother did not take the child to seek medical attention herself. She first sought advice from her own mother, a nurse, then after investigation by authorities a police officer took the child to the hospital, three days afterward, where he was later admitted to ward. A trio of character witnesses who are friends and family of the accused assured the court that the woman cares for her children and regrets the incident with her youngest. The Chief Magistrate said that while the fact that she is a first time offender and is now taking action to restore balance to her life, what she did to the child was unforgettable and that she will have to try and gain her son’s trust again. The Department of Social Services is to provide the court with a report on counseling for both the mother and her child, and she must report to court again on July 8, 2016, where the final decision will be given.

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