PREGNANT mother of nine Kezi Doughty was sent to prison for five months yesterday after being convicted of abandoning five of her children.
Doughty left her baby lying alone on a chair and her other children semi-nude and sleeping on a piece of sponge in a house with spoilt food.
In imposing the sentence, San Fernando Magistrate Alicia Chankar said, "One has to question your ability as to your parenting skills.... You have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of your children. You failed to do so. You left them without supervision.... Where was the good sense and judgment?"
Doughty, who is seven-months pregnant with twins, cried during sentencing and screamed as she was taken away to begin serving her prison term.
Doughty, 33, of King's Wharf, San Fernando, was charged by Constable St Louis that on June 10 last year, being a parent in charge of five children, she willfully abandoned them to cause injury to their health.
The children were between six months and eight years old.
Police prosecutor Russell Ramoutar told the court that Doughty was a mother of nine, but four children were not in her care.
In her defence, Doughty said she had gone to the sea, half-mile away, to bathe with one of her sons. She also testified that she had closed the bottom half of the door to the house before she left.
But police officers testified that two-year-old and three-year-old children were seen unsupervised at the side of a busy road on June 10.
The officers were then led to the other children sleeping alone inside a house.
Chankar said Doughty had the children living in squalour and "abject poverty".
"The five-month-old was left lying down alone on a sofa.... He could have fallen off. There was spoilt food.... Evidence that children were sleeping on a sponge.
The children had rashes, they were near naked.... She had them in a way that could not have led to them having a proper life," the magistrate said.
Chankar ordered the minors remain living in a children's home until they are teenagers.
Doughty begged the magistrate to spare her the prison term.
"How I will do five months (in jail) and I pregnant?... I don't want to go to jail, please," she said.
Doughty claimed she had an appointment to attend clinic yesterday morning and she was also gainfully employed.
She cried as she was led out of the courtroom and screamed in the corridor of the San Fernando Magistrates' Court.
She also sat on the step of the courthouse and sobbed as police officers attempted to escort her to a waiting vehicle.
Passers-by gathered outside, and some commented the five-month sentence was harsh for a pregnant woman. Strangers were seen wiping away tears.
Earlier, Chankar assured Doughty she would receive the required care and counselling while in prison.
She said the sentence was not meant to ensure everything would work well for herself and the children.
"You have a history of (institutions) trying to assist.... All too many times, we see and hear people saying the system...the Government...the child father has failed us, (but) we have to...find out how we fail ourselves," he said.
The magistrate said in recent times, cases involving young ones have come before the court, which has to ensure they are protected.
On Tuesday, Chankar sentenced a mother of seven to nine months in jail for failing to report to police officers that her nine-year-old daughter was sexually abused in her home. She was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
The previous day, a Chaguanas magistrate sent Kamla Ramcharan to prison for three years for burning her eight-year-old daughter's hand on a hot tawah—a circular, flat iron skillet used to make roti.
Yesterday, Doughty was also told to pay $3,000 on or before March 30 2013.
Should she fail to pay the money, she will spend three more months in jail.
Chankar said should a guardian or any interested party want to have custody of the children, they will have to approach the court and give a justifiable reason.
Doughty, who underwent psychiatric evaluation at St Ann's before the trial, was found fit to face the charges.