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Derek Achong

A mother of eight from Arima, who admitted to burning her five-year-old son’s hand on a stove after he stole a piece of meat from a pot, has been spared a prison sentence.

Although Michelle Gonzales, 47, of Malabar, Arima, pleaded guilty in August last year to causing grevious bodily harm to her son Brandon, she was only sentenced by High Court Judge Hayden St Clair-Douglas yesterday.

In placing Gonzales on a bond to keep the peace for three years, St Clair-Douglas noted that Brandon, now 21, provided a testimonial on his mother’s behalf and claimed that he had forgiven her.

“I would like my mother not to go to jail for burning my hand. My brothers and sisters love our mother dearly. She is more loving to us than when I was smaller,” he said in the handwritten note.

St Clair-Douglas noted that Gonzales’ change in behaviour was also corroborated by her daughter, who said that her parenting skills had drastically improved since she served a short sentence for leaving them unattended at home in 2008.

The daughter also claimed that the change was so drastic that she now trusts her mother to look after her four-year-old child.

St Clair-Douglas noted that a custodial sentence was not appropriate as it would clearly affect her children, the youngest of which is six-years-old.

He also stated that a fine was not feasible as Gonzales earned a modest salary as a Cepep worker and babysitter.

However, he warned Gonzales that she would have to serve six months in prison if she was charged with a crime while the $10,000 bond is in place.

“I hope you have learned a lesson. Please keep yourself on the right side and out of trouble,” St Clair-Douglas said.

According to the evidence in the case, which was presented by prosecutor Indira Chinebas before the sentencing, the incident occured at the family’s home in 2005.

Gonzales’ sister discovered what occured after Brandon and his siblings went by her and she noticed that his hand was bandaged, swollen and bleeding.

The child reportedly claimed that he burned himself while playing by a fire but eventually told the truth after being quizzed by his aunt.

Although his aunt took him to hospital for treatment, she did not immediately report the abuse to police.

Police began investigating the incident in June 2008, after a police officer noticed the scar on the child’s hand when he came to a police station to visit his mother, who had been arrested for leaving them home unsupervised as she went to work.

Gonzales initially denied any wrongdoing when confronted over the incident.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” she said, while being questioned by police.

Gonzales was represented by Thalia Francis-Brooks.