The release of a woman who hid the remains of six babies in a U-haul storage locker has many Winnipeggers upset, but a former Crown prosecutor says there is strong legal standing behind her successful appeal.
Andrea Giesbrecht was freed on Tuesday. A Manitoba Court of Appeal decision by Justice Christopher J. Mainella said her sentence of 8.5 years was too harsh for the crimes for which she was convicted.
“Let’s all remember where this starts from,” former prosecutor Tony Kavanagh told 680 CJOB.
“This is an offence of concealing a body of a child, and the maximum sentence for that is two years under Section 243 of the Criminal Code.
“What is that crime? That’s a crime of dishonesty. So when the provincial court judge, whose decision was being appealed, looked at other factors – for example, issues of ‘a mother’s duty should be to protect the child’, or there may have been some inappropriate neglect, there was a lack of remorse – none of those things, said Justice Mainella, should apply.”
Kavanagh said he understands the public outcry, but it’s a matter of nuance. Giesbrecht wasn’t charged with neglect or hurting a child – only for concealing the bodies.
“The state has a right to know when and how the babies died, and by hiding the bodies and disposing of the bodies, that prevented us, as a society, from knowing how they died,” he said.
“It’s a crime of dishonesty, and we’re not to look at these other factors that the provincial court judge did.”
Giesbrecht was arrested on Oct. 20, 2014, when six dead infants were found wrapped in towels and stored inside plastic containers in a U-Haul storage locker she had been renting.
She pleaded not guilty to six counts of concealing infant remains and had been free on bail since she was arrested in 2014.
Mainella reduced Giesbrecht’s sentence to three years and gave credit for 252 days served.
“This is a deeply disturbing case,” he said in the conclusion of his decision.
“We will never know why these six little lights went dark due to the accused’s appalling dishonesty.
“However, just as the mighty are not above the law, the unpopular are not outside of its protections, even on facts as troubling as here.
“While the accused was properly convicted of the offences, she did not originally receive a fit sentence based on a principled application of the law as she, like anyone else, is entitled.”
WATCH: Defence lawyer explains the decision for reduced Giesbrecht sentence