Manitoba’s highest court has ordered a man to serve more time in custody for leaving his elderly mother to die on the floor after she fell out of bed.
The court overturned a 90-day jail sentence handed to Ronald Siwicki, 67, and replaced it with one of 21 months.
He had pleaded guilty to one count of criminal negligence causing death in the December 2014 death of his 89-year-old mother, Elizabeth Siwicki.
In a decision released Thursday, the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled that Siwicki’s original sentence was not proportionate to the gravity of his crime.
"This case is about the consequences to an adult child who has failed in his duty to provide adequate care for a vulnerable parent in difficult circumstances," Justice Janice leMaistre wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel.
"Ultimately, in my opinion, the sentencing judge erred by focusing on the personal circumstances of the accused when deterrence and denunciation were the primary sentencing principles and by imposing a sentence that is not proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the accused," she said. "These errors affected the sentence in more than an incidental way and, in my view, resulted in a sentence that is demonstrably unfit."
Justice Michel Monnin came to a dissenting conclusion, finding that the original sentence was "fit and proper," opening the door to an automatic right of appeal for the defence before the Supreme Court.
Siwicki was taken into custody Thursday. Defence lawyer Mike Cook said he will seek bail for his client pending an appeal.
Siwicki admitted he had left his mother on the floor for about three weeks after she fell out of bed in November 2014. The sentencing hearing was told she didn’t want her son to call for medical help, and he left her there until she developed bedsores, which became infected and caused fatal sepsis.
"The case takes on a much larger life than just what happened in the Siwicki household," Cook said Thursday. "It takes into consideration as a society what do we do when our aged parents or relatives forbid us to contact 911 to get emergency care."
Siwicki gave his mother daily nutritional supplement drinks and water, but didn’t call 911 or try to clean her up until after she had died.
Siwicki lived his entire life with his parents. His father died in 1996. Reference letters submitted to court at sentencing described Elizabeth Siwicki as a strong-willed, stubborn woman who suffered from dementia and Ronald as an immature, passive man who never went against his mother’s wishes.
"The accused’s personal circumstances, including the nature of his relationship with his mother, are unquestionably sympathetic and affect his moral culpability," leMaistre said. "However, his conduct was prolonged over at least 26 days and his mother’s death was directly attributable to his failure to act and easily preventable."