By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
A GRAND Bahama couple was convicted of child cruelty against a 15-year-old minor and fined more than $15,000 on Friday after pleading guilty in the Freeport Magistrate’s Court.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Debbye Ferguson handed down her decision in the case of a 38-year-old mother and her businessman fiancé.
Both had pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges stemming from a child abuse incident in July.
The couple, who were not represented by counsel at their arraignment on Thursday, reappeared in court on Friday. They attempted to have their guilty pleas changed.
Lawyer Paco Deal, who represented the couple, made an application to the court to change their pleas to not guilty.
Mr Deal said that his clients were not represented by counsel at the time and were confused and did not know what to do.
“They found it was not the best decision they made in pleading guilty without understanding the nature of the charge against them and not having legal representation. We are asking the court to use its mercy and discretion and accede the application to change their guilty pleas to not guilty,” he said.
Mr Deal explained that the couple's family retained his services on Friday morning.
However the magistrate denied their application.
She informed Mr Deal that she had adjourned the matter to Friday to ensure that she gave a proper review of one of the charges against the mother before delivering her decision in that matter. She further informed Mr Deal that she came prepared to deliver her written decision, which he had a right to appeal.
The woman was charged with making a false report, cruelty to a child, and failing to report of child abuse.
On count one of making a false report, she was convicted and fined $500 or six months in prison. On the second count of cruelty to a child, she was convicted and fined $5,000 or ordered to serve two years in prison; on the third count of failing to report child abuse, she was convicted and fined $5,000 or one year in prison.
Her fiancé was also convicted of causing harm and cruelty to a child. On the causing harm count, he was fined $500 or ordered to serve three months in prison. For cruelty to a child, he was fined $5,000 or to serve two years in prison.
According to court evidence on Thursday, the accused woman indicated that the 15-year-old was disrespectful and abusive to her. She told the magistrate that she called the police asking for assistance regarding the boy’s behaviour, but received no help. She stated that the child would also leave the house and return home late. She also confirmed an incident when the teen hit her with a curtain rod.
She admitted that her fiancé took a plastic cup that he had filled with beer and hit the boy in the back of the head, resulting in him leaving the house.
The magistrate said the couple had until noon today to pay the fine. She also informed them that she had asked the Department of Social Services to assist in offering some counseling for the family.