Monday, November 29, 2010

Mom gets conditional discharge for abandoning 3½-year-old to go drinking

If this was a dad would he now be in jail and being painted as a monster as opposed to this slap on the wrist? Note the incompetent and neglectful mom wants to get custody back.  The poor child if that ever happens. Shared parenting needs to be the default and when dads are allowed to stay in the life of their child they will be better protected.MJM


Sick child home alone

While Joanne Victoria Lawson was drinking at a bar one night, her 3½-year-old daughter was home alone with a fever — vomiting, wandering around the darkened apartment, banging on the door and crying for her mommy.

The building superintendents heard the little girl’s screams over a two-hour period and finally let themselves into the apartment. After finding the child unattended and leaving messages on the mother’s cellphone, they called police.

Lawson, 42, pleaded guilty earlier this year to child abandonment and received an 18-month conditional discharge Thursday in Halifax provincial court.

The events of March 20, 2008, cost Lawson custody of her daughter, who now lives with her father in Cape Breton.

Lawson has stopped drinking and abusing drugs, is responding well to medication for adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and hopes to eventually regain custody of the girl.

"It was a horrible thing I did," the Dartmouth woman told Judge Carol Beaton.

"I don’t have the words to describe how I feel every day when I wake up and I don’t have my daughter, and it’s from my own actions — actions that I quite simply don’t remember.

"It’s something I live with every day."

Lawson said she worked to keep her emotions under control when she spoke to experts about her actions. Those people interpreted that as a lack of remorse, causing the prosecutor to have concerns about having agreed to propose a conditional discharge.

"Everybody seems to think I don’t have a lot of remorse for this incident, which is absolutely not true,"

Lawson said, fighting back tears. "I know exactly what could have happened and it scares the hell out of me.

I love my child very much."

Court was told Lawson drank a bottle of cheap red wine at her apartment on Layton Road in Halifax before calling a cab to take her to a downtown watering hole shortly after 8 p.m.

When police entered the apartment at about 10:30 p.m., the bathtub had about 15 centimetres of water in it.

It appeared Lawson had used the tub to wash vomit off her daughter’s clothes earlier in the day.

The woman returned home intoxicated at about 2 a.m. and was upset at the superintendents for what they had done.

Lawson had made tentative arrangements for a babysitter that evening but forgot to follow through on them, defence lawyer Margaret MacKenzie of Nova Scotia Legal Aid told the court.

"She loves her child and was devoted to her child," MacKenzie said of her client, who works as a cook.

"She admits to screwing up big time that night. There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that alcohol was the main player and (the child) suffered as a result of that."

The Crown proceeded by indictment on the charge, which meant the maximum penalty was five years in prison.

Crown attorney Susan MacKay said it was fortunate that Lawson lived in an apartment building and not in a house, where the child’s cries might have gone unheeded by neighbours.

"This incident is very serious," MacKay said. "I would hope that this criminal process . . . will have a positive impact on Ms. Lawson’s future behaviour."

MacKay said a medical checkup found that the child was suffering from a bug of some kind but was otherwise in good health. There were no signs of any previous abuse and the dwelling was clean and well maintained.

Lawson had no previous criminal convictions and, by pleading guilty, accepted responsibility for her actions, the prosecutor said in recommending the conditional discharge to the judge.

"I think she’s getting a bit of a break and I hope she knows it," MacKay said. "It would be a very different circumstance today if further trauma had come to that child."

Lawson will be on probation for 18 months, with conditions that she abstain from alcohol and drugs, participates in counselling for substance abuse or any other issue identified by her sentence supervisor, and performs 50 hours of community service. She also can’t have contact with her daughter unless it’s through lawyers or in relation to a family court order.

If she fulfills the conditions, the conviction will be discharged and she won’t have a criminal record.

"This was a situation that had the potential for real disaster, over and above the seriousness of what did occur," the judge said in adopting the recommended sentence.

"One shudders to think what could have happened to (the child), left alone at 3½ years of age. She could have aspirated on her own vomit. She could have fallen into the bathtub. . . . She could have come into contact with matches.

"I could be here for an hour listing all the possibilities. All of the reasons that adults don’t leave children alone can be conjured up here to illustrate how some sort of success was snatched from the jaws of potential disaster."

Beaton said the court was essentially being asked to emphasize the positive changes Lawson has made in her life.

"That takes a leap of faith on the part of the court and on the part of the community," the judge said.
She urged Lawson not to do anything to abuse that faith.


In Singapore Women's Riights supercede men's just like in Canada

This story should sound very familiar to men in North America. There is no immunity to mistakes when it comes to children and fatherlessness.MJM


Replace Women’s Charter with Family Charter
November 29, 2010

The current surge in gang violence, that not only leads to injury but also death, amongst youths is something we have not witnessed before. Over the last five years, I have been hearing from friends who are police investigators who pointed out to a rising trend in youth gangs, youth violence and juvenile crime across a certain section of youths. My police friends explained that though it is unclear if overall youth crimes and violence is increasing, the rise within that section of youth is worrisome. One police friend shared with me about an incident in Far East Plaza about 5 years ago whereby a CID officer was chased by a group of youths armed with parang. My police friend said “when in the history of Singapore have we ever seen CID officers running and youths chasing and also with a weapon…

CID officers always have had a fierce reputation whereby only others flee at their sight”. Another police friend told me that he has been seeing an increase in crimes involving youths as young as 17 years old carrying weapons and stealing or robbing. As I stated earlier, this thing has been a rising trend for last five years. Though the field police officers want to combat this, the police management basically takes the usual complacent Singapore civil service attitude of “lets not open a can of worms”.

Each time my police friends share these stories with me, I always asked them what they thought was the common root problem. They cited that these kids often come from divorced families or seperated parents. They shared that unlike in earlier decades where the divorce families were also often associated with other problems, lower literacy and lower socio-economic status, these kids often do come from families where their single parent having care rights and control rights over them are white coller, well educated and coming from good socio-economic background.

The police officers blamed how womens’ charter was radically implemented in Singapore and pointed out that the women’s charter though having empowered women have instead failed to put in place checks, create a balance or moderation in that empowerment process to allow a peaceful co-existance between seperated or divorced parents for the benefit of the children. When I went to review the women’s charter with friends from other countries who are trained legal experts, they pointed out there is absolutely no check, no balance to prevent even the worst abuses by women against their husbands or ex-husbands. They also pointed out that the womens’ charter has in place only weak, useless and superficial processes for amicable dispute resolution between the mother and father of the child. Instead what is in place is legal ballistic weaponry for full battle against the husband. Hence when the typical mechanisms in the womens’ charter are extremely hostile towards one gender, given seperations/divorces/custody disputes/alimony disputes/maintenance disputes are essentially domestic problems the dispute then only grows bigger and not smaller and drags for a longer period than concluding faster.

When the couple is facing stress in the marriage, the Womens’ Charter provides greater mechanisms for hostile take out than for peaceful reconciliation. The couple basically have just 2 to 3 opportunities at lame and weak counselling or mediating sessions with the least qualified social workers. If that fails, then what is available is operation ‘take out’. Lawyers whom the couple engage from the beginning aggravate the situation because their remuneration lies when the couple go to court and divorce/annul their marriage. The lawyers profit little in peaceful reconciliations.

After the divorce, during the next few decades when the parents are alive, when there is again dispute over maintenance whatsover there is absolutely no proper mechanisms for peaceful and amicable resolution of the issue. Instead they need to go to court again and courts are by nature not positive mechanisms for family issues. There again the womens’ charter provides another set of ballistic missiles for another operation ‘take out’.

In this whole process, the one who reaps no benefit nor even sadistic pleasure is the children. They face enormous mental pressures in such situations. Watching their parents tear each other apart in court itself is not a pleasant experience for them. It does not help their self-esteem at all when they see their friends having normal families doing families activities. Even when the parent remarries, the child cannot refer to that person as father or mother in the presence of his/her friends like how their friends do. The parents also try to make up for the situation through pampering.

I annaecdotally surveyed children from a 2-3 families in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia where the parents divorced and the kids grew up in such a divorced family. I found that in those families in Malaysia and Indonesia where they had great extended family support or relative support or neighbours support on a daily basis, they turned out well in terms of completion of tertiary education, non-participation in crime or violence, non-participation in drugs/smoking/alcohol etc. On the other hand, in the Singapore case since there is no support on daily basis from extended family, neighbours or relatives, the kids tend to end up with the wrong company of friends and aimlessly search for a purpose and self-worth in life and try to achieve it through risk taking activities such as gangs, sex, alcohol, drugs, violence, smoking.

What is clear is that though Womens groups in Singapore, where lawyers are largely represented, may proclaim victories in being able to set up punitive legal mechanisms within the Womens’ charter, they need to claim resonsibility in creating hostile environment for divorced couples to sort out their families issues over their lifetimes and in that process affecting a generation of kids pushing them to resort to directions which society can ill afford to see them head into. They need to take responsiblity for destroying the destiny of a generation of divorced children in order to protect the well-being and rights of divorced women.

What is required now is action to replace the Womens’ charter with Family charter which creates not just checks but also balances and which ensures the lifelong well-being of the child is protected. The primary focus should not be about only the protection of women but instead women, children, men collectively. The reform of the Womens’ Charter to Family Charter need to be headed by non-lawyers and instead by social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Singaporean Observor