TORONTO — A part-time university student was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison for giving her infant son cocaine over a 14-month period, resulting in permanent brain damage.
The actions of Tamara Broomfield were described as acutely deplorable by an Ontario Superior Court judge, who indicated that the sentence must reflect society's abhorrence toward the conduct.
As a result of her egregious breach of trust, the consequences to her son are catastrophic, said Justice Tamarin Dunnet. Ms. Broomfield persisted in a pattern of gross parental abuse over a long period of time against a vulnerable and defenceless child.
The court heard that her now seven-year-old son Malique will be subject to a lifetime of seizures, has impulse control problems and will likely be unemployable as an adult.
While the 28-year-old woman has no prior criminal record, the judge said she agreed with the suggestions of the Crown about the need for a lengthy sentence.
There is nothing in her background to explain her actions, said Dunnet. One is left to infer that she made conscious decisions to obtain cocaine to give to Malique for her own selfish purposes.
The Toronto woman was convicted last year of aggravated assault endangering life, assault causing bodily harm and administering cocaine to her son in 2004 and 2005. The sentencing was delayed because Broomfield fired her original lawyer and claimed he acted improperly.
During her trial, court heard that Broomfield was 21 and the sole caregiver for Malique when the offences took place. In the weeks before the infant received an almost fatal overdose of cocaine, the Children's Aid Society of Toronto became involved.
Society staff took the boy to hospital after daycare staff noticed swelling on his arm. X-rays showed an old fracture, as well as a new one. Children's Aid questioned Broomfield about the injuries and was about to seek temporary custody of the boy when she took him to hospital in August 2005. It was at that time that presence of cocaine in Malique was discovered.
An expert in pediatric care testified that he had never seen such high levels of cocaine metabolites as tests revealed had been present in the boy.
Dunnet noted that Broomfield repeatedly denied administering the drug. She was indifferent to her child's suffering and to her duty as a parent, the judge said.
Malique is currently being cared for by his grandmother and father, Steve Fitz-Charles, who both delivered emotional victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing last month.
In his victim impact statement, Mr. Fitz-Charles spoke poignantly of the harm done and the loss suffered as the result of the commission of these offences and of the daily struggle that he faces in coping with raising a severely disabled child while attending university, Dunnet observed.
Broomfield came to Canada from Jamaica at the age of 12 to live with her father. She told her probation officer that she was not raised in an abusive environment.
After Broomfield was taken into custody, Fitz-Charles said there may be some benefit from the publicity surrounding the case.
You can never take back the damage she has caused my son, he said. But I hope it will protect some other child from parents who think of doing the same thing.
By Shannon Kari,
July 8, 2010