By AZARD ALI Friday, June 29 2012
A YOUNG woman, who is a mother of nine and who is pregnant with twins, yesterday became the fourth woman this week to be jailed for a criminal offence committed against their own children. The woman, Kezi Doughty, will give birth to her tenth and eleventh child, while incarcerated. Her due date is in September.
In sentencing Doughty to five months imprisonment on a charge of abandoning five of her nine children, last year at King’s Wharf in San Fernando, Magistrate Alicia Chankar declared the children — whose ages vary from infant to eight years — wards of the State.
The five children are currently living in a Home for Children. Chankar said anyone interested in foster parenting, can apply to the courts to have the children placed in their care.
Doughty’s four other children live with her father. Yesterday, the magistrate asked why the father of the five children, who were abandoned, was not also charged for abandonment. As the jail sentence was ordered, 33-year-old Doughty started to scream and tugged at the shirts of police officers saying she was pregnant with twins and did not want to go to jail.
Police officers later tried to hold on to the distressed woman but Doughty threw herself on the ground.
“We are not seeking to punish you but to provide the proper guidance for you and your children. One child was left sleeping on a sponge. There was spoilt food. One has to question your role as a mother,” Chankar told a weeping Doughty.
On June 10, 2011, the charge read, Doughty left an infant sleeping on a sponge in a shack at King’s Wharf overlooking the Gulf of Paria. Doughty left her eight-year-old daughter in charge of three other children aged three, six and seven. Except for the infant, the other children wandered out of the shack close to where the Public Service Transport Corporation’s (PTSC) south terminus is located.
Someone spotted the children and telephoned the police. Doughty was found bathing at a nearby beach. She had initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of wilful child abandonment and was granted $25,000 bail while a summary trial (before a magistrate) was set.
At the trial, Doughty testified that she left the shack for only half -an-hour, to bathe one of her children in the sea located about half-a-mile away from the shack. In all, Doughty attended court on three occasions. On June 11, court prosecutor Sgt Russel Ramoutar made his closing submissions to Chankar.
“If these children had walked a little way up the road, they could have been knocked down by a bus because the PTSC terminus is located right there. You know what could have happened in half- an-hour?
The house could have burned down. Ms Doughty is unfit to be a mother. If you want what is best for those children...to be a meaningful part of society, they should not be in the care of Ms Doughty,” Sgt Ramoutar said, in his closing submissions.
Yesterday, Chankar ruled that Doughty, who is six months pregnant, was guilty as charged.
“The court must protect and ensure children are treated in the right way. Children are our tomorrow. You willfully abandoned and left them alone in a less than desirable environment both in and outside the home. You took it upon yourself to go for a bathe.
Where was your parenting and good sense and judgement. One has to question your ability as a parent,” Chankar said.
The magistrate said that in deciding on how to rule at the trial, she drive to the area at King’s Wharf to assess the living condition of the children. She noted in her ruling that Doughty had received help from various State welfare agencies including Family Planning. “Ms Doughty is not a person the system has failed. Too many times we blame others, but not the choices we make. Children are to be fed, clothed and nurtured. Clearly, they were living in abject squalor...conditions that were less than desirable. Where was your sense of parenting?”
Chankar fined Doughty $3,000 which is to be paid by March 30, 2013, or in default she will serve five months simple imprisonment (no hard labour). The magistrate then told Doughty she will serve five months simple imprisonment. At this, Doughty screamed as female police officers admonished her to, “behave yourself!”
The magistrate then ordered that the five children who were abandoned remain in the custody of the Children’s Home where they are presently staying and to also be declared Wards of the State.
“I pregnant, how I could go to jail?” Doughty sobbed as she was taken away. As she was walking down some steps outside the courthouse, Doughty sat down and refused to leave. She was consoled by several woman police officers. With some difficulty, several police officers lifted the pregnant woman and carefully placed her in a police van which sped off towards the Women’s Prison, Golden Grove Prisons in Arouca. Commissioner of Prisons Martin Martinez assured Newsday that Doughty would receive proper primary care and attention given her pregnancy.
“Don’t worry. We will take good care of her. She would be given primary care and if further medical care is needed given her condition, other arrangements would be made,” Martinez said adding that Doughty will be taken to a hospital to give birth. The twins, after birth, will be given to Doughty’s relatives while she will return to the Women’s Prison to complete her sentence.