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This article was published 3/3/2017 (1228 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg mother who was not allowed to have any unauthorized contact with her children during a custody dispute has been sentenced to three months in jail for texting her daughter.
Sandra Giesbrecht has been in custody since June on separate abduction charges, so she’s already served the sentence provincial court Associate Chief Judge Anne Krahn imposed Thursday.
After a trial that began in February, the judge convicted Giesbrecht, a Winnipeg mother in her mid-40s, of disobeying a court order for exchanging texts with her 11-year-old daughter in early May 2016 under the contact name "Crayon," as she was listed in the child’s phone. The phone was allegedly hidden in a boxspring mattress and later discovered by workers at the foster placement where the children were staying.
The texts were sent over two days in early May 2016, more than a month before Giesbrecht’s two children went missing for five days in June. Her trial on the abduction charges is set to begin this summer.
"I just want to say that I love my children," Giesbrecht told the judge before sentencing, appearing in court via video link from the Women’s Correctional Centre. "I’ve never hurt my children, ever."
The judge said she believed Giesbrecht never physically hurt the children and that they loved their mother.
"There’s no evidence, no suggestion in any of the material, that she has ever physically hurt them. It’s her inability to understand that she is causing tremendous psychological damage – that is the risk and the harm that is being inflicted in this situation," Krahn said while delivering her decision.
A court order implemented after Giesbrecht’s ex-husband gained full custody of the two children prevented her from having any unauthorized contact with them, but the text messages were exchanged just three weeks after a family court judge made the no-contact order.
The couple separated in 2013 and was involved in a lengthy custody battle that resulted in the children’s father being granted full custody in December 2015, but the children refused to go with him and were temporarily placed in foster care.
"Since the separation the mother’s behaviour has been disturbing. She continues to show an unwillingness to parent the children in a healthy manner. She continues her attempts to pervert their parental bond with their father," Justice Cathy Everett noted in her April 2016 decision, which found that Sandra Giesbrecht was emotionally unstable and displayed "toxic" behaviour. Everett’s decision is being appealed by Giesbrecht and her defence lawyer Gisele Champagne.
Champagne had asked the judge to impose a $250 fine for the breach of a court order Thursday, saying Giesbrecht sent the texts ultimately because she cared about her children.
"It pulls at heart strings, but she understands that there’s an order in place and she understands that she’s not to have contact with them, but that’s an extremely difficult thing when they are your own children," Champagne said.
The Crown had sought a four-month jail sentence.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
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