HALIFAX — A Halifax mother whose three-year-old son was beaten to death is calling for Criminal Code amendments that would add an offence for violence against children.
Allisan Tucker's son Matthew suffered more than 30 blows to his head, a spiral fracture to his leg and blunt force trauma to his pancreas when his father James Peter-Paul beat him to death in October 2010.
The 31-year-old woman says Peter-Paul pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2012, but was granted full parole last May. He was originally charged with second-degree murder.
Tucker said the Criminal Code should include an offence that differentiates violent crimes against adults from those against children, such as the United Kingdom's offence of cruelty to persons under 16.
"It's not something that you think about. You don't expect your child to die," said Tucker in an interview Friday.
"I'm not looking to reopen cases. From a legal standpoint, we can't do that. We want to move forward. It's not about attacking the person who did it. It's about adding an offence in the law that specifies violence against children on top of the crime that was committed, whatever it may be — like assault or murder."
Tucker pointed to the cases of 12 Canadian children who were killed or allegedly killed by adults, including five-year-old Quinn Butt of Newfoundland, whose father Trent Butt is accused of first-degree murder.
On Friday afternoon, Tucker met with Halifax Liberal MP Andy Fillmore to discuss the issue.
Fillmore's office said he was not available for comment, but Tucker said the MP told her that he would bring her concerns to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould as part of a planned criminal justice overhaul.
In a statement from the Justice Department, spokesman Ian McLeod said the Criminal Code already comprehensively prohibits all forms of child abuse in charges such as assault, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault and murder.
"In addition, evidence that an offender abused a person under the age of 18 in committing an offence is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes," McLeod said in an email.
"As well as the criminal law protections, all provinces and territories have in place child protection legislation to protect children from abuse."
Isabel Grant, a professor in the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, said she doesn't see a gap in the Criminal Code that needs to be filled.
Grant noted the Criminal Code lists several aggravating factors that relate to children that must be considered in sentencing for such crimes: One is a requirement to look at a victim's age, and another addresses a breach in trust.
"Where bodily harm is caused to the child, there are a number of different provisions that cover that crime," said Grant in a phone interview from her home in Vancouver.
"Murder charges are available in that situation and are not uncommonly successful."
Tucker described Matthew as a "sweet" boy who loved Thomas the Tank Engine and the movie Cars.
Tucker had custody of Matthew during his short life, but he had started to ask about his father, who lived in Indian Brook, N.S. Tucker said she slowly allowed Peter-Paul into Matthew's life, first with visits in public places and eventually she trusted him enough to leave Matthew with Peter-Paul, his girlfriend and two children.
Tucker was in Toronto for a week and Matthew was staying with Peter-Paul when she received a call that her son had fallen in the bathtub and died. It wasn't until almost a year later, following an autopsy, that she found out Peter-Paul had beaten their child to death.
"He had a spiral fracture in his leg, which is only caused by manually twisting. He had more than 30 traumas on his body including his head and the one that hit his pancreas made it rupture and poisoned him, which caused his death," said Tucker.
Tucker said she now plans on personally reaching out to the families of other slain children to garner support.
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