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Mother allowed to visit abandoned newborn
Two weeks after allegedly leaving her newborn baby boy outside the St Mary’s Children’s Home, Tacarigua, an Arouca mother of two yesterday appeared in court charged with child abandonment. Roxanne Agard was granted bail and the court has ordered that she should be allowed to visit the as yet unnamed baby, who is to remain warded at the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric Hospital at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), Mt Hope.
The baby boy was found wrapped in an old jersey in the bush outside the orphanage around 10 pm on December 23. Meanwhile a probation officer’s report on the mother has been ordered. Agard, 32, of Ninth Street, Five Rivers, Arouca, was not called upon to plead when she appeared before Senior Magistrate Lucina Cardenas-Ragoonanan in the Arima First Court yesterday.
Appearing in court around 11.15 am, Agard calmly looked at the members of the public seated in the courtroom as her attorneys Pennelope Beckles and Shurland Augustine requested a short adjournment to wait for her bailor. Agard quietly walked out of the courtroom, escorted by two female officers.
When she reappeared around 12.30 pm, the charge was read to her and Beckles appealed for bail. The court heard that Agard, who has no pending matters or previous convictions, is the mother of an eight-year-old girl and two-year-old boy, and is currently unemployed, but had been providing care for an elderly person some time ago.
Telling the court she had been denied an opportunity to speak with Agard at the Arouca Police Station on Thursday night, Beckles said she would be filing a formal complaint, as it was a senior police officer who had refused to let her speak with Agard.
Saying she had been in practice for the past 25 years and had never experienced such an infringement of anyone’s rights, Beckles said Agard had been in custody since January 1, and that it was the father of Agard’s son who was willing to take her bail.
Expressing concern following Beckles’ announcement, Sgt Valerie Leon told the court she would liaise with the complainant about the claim that Agard and Beckles had been denied a meeting. Adding that she hoped it was “a misunderstanding,” Cardenas-Ragoonanan reiterated that it was a right of both the accused and their attorney to meet and speak, and that similar actions would not be tolerated by the court.
With no objections forthcoming on the issue of bail, Cardenas-Ragoonanan granted Agard $50,000 bail with a surety. Approving contractor Ricardo Parker of Local Road, Mc Bean, Couva, as Agard’s surety, the magistrate urged him to make sure she continued to appear in court.
After learning that the baby had been given a clean bill of health, Cardenas-Ragoonanan ordered that hospital officials should not prevent Agard from seeing her son. Beckles assured that she would accompany Agard on all visits to the hospital. Cardenas-Ragoonanan also ordered that the baby should stay at the EWMSC until Agard’s reappearance on January 22.
Before adjourning the matter, Cardenas-Ragoonanan joined with Beckles and Augustine as they praised Leon for her initiative in disclosing copies of the caution statement and medical report on the first hearing, as she said, “I have seen something different with Sgt Leon, as she does what is required and her style and method of business are unquestionable.”
Cardenas-Ragoonanan yesterday vowed to complete this matter within the next two months.
What the law says:
Section 21, Chapter 11:08 of the Offences Against the Person Act states: “Any person who unlawfully abandons or exposes any child under the age of two years so that the life of the child is endangered or the health of the child is likely to be permanently injured, is liable to imprisonment for five years.”
The charge against Agard, who last worked as a caregiver, is that on December 23, 2012, at Eastern Main Road, Tacarigua, being the mother of a baby boy under two years, she did wilfully abandon and expose the child so as to endanger the health of the child. The charge was laid by WPC Tricia Dick of the Arouca station.
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