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Child M's mother gets 15 years for manslaughter in Edmonton court

03/06/2015 01:23 EST | Updated 05/06/2015 05:59 EDT
The mother of Child M was sentenced to 15 years in prison this morning for starving and beating her twin daughters.

As Justice Eric Macklin read his decision, which took more than an hour, his words were translated into Arabic, so the 37-year-old woman could understand.

The judge said pre-sentence reports show the mother had "limited recognition of the consequences of her actions."

In court this week, a social worker called this the "worst case of neglect and mistreatment any of us had witnessed in our careers."

The Crown had asked for a sentence of 23 to 25 years. The defence asked the judge to show mercy and have empathy for the woman.

The day she was taken to hospital, on May 12, 2012, Child M was unconscious, had no pulse, and wasn't breathing. ​She was severely emaciated and covered with scratches and bruises.

The little girl weighed 13 pounds, four ounces. She was 27 months old.

Her twin sister was also emaciated and had suffered severe injuries. The couple's four-year-old son was healthy and appeared well cared for. Both surviving children are now living with other caregivers.

Despite the condition in which Child M and her sister were found, the mother initially told a detective her daughters were well-fed and explained their injuries by saying they had fallen down the stairs while playing.

On June 12, 2012, police arrested both parents. They were charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessaries of life.

Three months after Child M was hospitalized, after a lengthy legal battle, the Alberta Court of Appeal ordered that the little girl be taken off life-support, against her parents' wishes.

She died on Sept. 20, 2012, and her parents' assault charges were upgraded to manslaughter.

Last April, the father pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The judge at the time called the case "a crime of inhumanity to small children."

The mother pleaded guilty to her charges. Macklin said both parents will likely be deported back to Algeria once they're released from prison.

Had a full trial been held in this case, the judge said Friday, the evidence would likely have "shocked" the public.

Under Canadian law, the parents in this case cannot be named in order to protect the identities of their children.

The mother apologized in court earlier this week.

"It's easy for anybody to say I'm sorry,” she said in Arabic, her words translated into English. “But today I'm stating my sorrow. I feel great remorse. After all this, my kids represent everything to me. I always wanted them to be the best they could be.”

"I have no doubt as to the sincerity of her comments or her remorse," Macklin said Friday.

But at one point during this week's sentencing hearing, the judge stopped proceedings to ask what led to the dysfunctional relationship between the mother and her little girls, given that there was no evidence the woman had any psychological problems.

Crown prosecutor Shelley Bykewich said at the time: “Every once in a while, there comes along a crime so horrific that a person with any empathy simply cannot fathom it.”

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