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Mother who left baby in the cold should not go to jail, court told

CBC, Friday, May 8, 2009

A Regina woman who left her baby in a stroller in the bitter cold has changed for the better, according to presentations made during a sentencing hearing on Friday.

Natacha Araya, 22, should not be behind bars according to submissions from both the Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer on the case.

Araya had already pleaded guilty to failing to provide the necessities of life after leaving her six-month-old son inside a baby stroller on a Regina sidewalk on a winter night.

It was 1:10 in the morning of Feb. 28, 2008, with a temperature of -20 C, according to information provided to the court on Friday.

Court was told how Araya was seen struggling to make her way as she pulled a stroller along a snow-clogged street, at one point dragging the baby carrier behind her like a sled.

Eventually the woman gave up and walked away, leaving the stroller - with her child inside - behind.

A man driving in a truck saw what happened and thought he should check because he was not sure there was a child inside the stroller. When he discovered the boy, he took the child into his truck and called police.

Crown prosecutor Randene Zielke told reporters outside court that there could have been a very different outcome to the case.

"But for the intervention of a concerned citizen this could have been very tragic," Zielke said.

As it turned out, the child was examined in hospital and needed nothing more than a diaper change.

His mother was picked up two blocks away from the scene, intoxicated and described as unco-operative with police.

In court, her lawyer said his client was a victim of abuse and that alcohol has been an ongoing problem in her life.

However, court was told that she has changed and has been going to Alcoholics Anonymous and parenting classes. The judge was also told that Araya, who has two children, has had them both with her since December and a report from child welfare officials said she was not a risk to reoffend.

"She has taken a number of proactive steps to show that she does take it seriously," Zielke said of the positive changes.

Both Zielke and Araya's lawyer suggested a period of house arrest and probation.

The judge said she will consider the submissions and make a decision on May 25.