Mother fed glass to baby so she could sue food firm, court told


A Victoria woman who has admitted that she placed pieces of glass in a jar of baby food and fed it to her infant son did so with the intention of suing a baby food company for money, the Crown alleged on Friday.

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Rayanne Longhurst, 24, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault by endangering the life of her eight-month-old son on Aug. 21, 2012.

At her sentencing hearing Friday in Victoria provincial court, admissions of fact revealed that one year earlier, on April 25, 2011, Longhurst and her partner had taken their eight-month-old daughter to hospital and told doctors the girl had eaten glass in a jar of baby food.

The couple sued the baby food company and settled out of court for $22,000, according to the admissions, which were signed by Longhurst and read into the court record.

On Aug. 21, 2012, Longhurst fed her eight-month-old son pieces of glass, then took him to hospital and told doctors he had accidentally eaten glass.

Doctors examined the boy and took X-rays of his abdomen that showed foreign objects in his colon.

After the X-rays, the baby had a bowel movement. Staff found two pieces of glass in his stool. A test also showed there was bleeding in his colon. The baby was taken into the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and Longhurst was asked to leave the hospital.

Longhurst refused to leave without the open container of baby food containing the glass pieces. She said her lawyer needed it because she planned to sue the baby food company, the admissions say.

The baby was not injured in any serious way and did not require surgery. However, the glass could have cut his digestive system and he could have suffered serious injury or death.

Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings did not suggest that the 2011 glass-eating incident involving the baby girl was deliberate. The purpose of providing that information to the court was to prove that Longhurst fed glass to the second baby for financial gain, Jennings said.

“This was a heinous crime that would certainly shock every member of the community,” Jennings said.

“Feeding glass to a baby for a financial motive is horrifying and an aggravated assault. She could have done a great deal of damage. She could have caused serious injury or death.”

“That message is loud and clear,” Judge Evan Blake said.

However, in pre-sentence and psychological reports, Longhurst denied intentionally feeding glass to the baby.

Longhurst has little insight into her offending and was reluctant to accept responsibility for the offence. This makes it difficult for psychologists to assess her risk of further violence, Jennings said.

She noted that Longhurst has no criminal record and no breaches of her bail. Jennings asked the court to impose a jail sentence of 18 months to two years, followed by a lengthy period of probation.

Defence lawyer Marie Morrison said Longhurst did not harm her baby for financial gain.

That issue is now in dispute and the sentencing hearing has been adjourned to allow the Crown to call evidence on that point.

Longhurst has significant cognitive impairment, suffers from depression and has challenges staying on top of her medication, Morrison said.

Longhurst was struggling with her medication at the time she fed her infant son glass and was harming herself as well.

Morrison will continue her submissions when the sentencing hearing resumes.

A date for the continuation will be set on Dec. 23.

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