A 25-year-old Winnipeg soldier is waiting to hear his sentence for assaulting his six-month-old triplet sons.
The boys’ father, who cannot be named to protect the identities of his children, pleaded guilty to charges of assault causing bodily harm.
When the boys were taken to hospital last fall, doctors found they had a total of 19 broken or cracked bones. They have recovered from their injuries, but remain in the care of child-welfare authorities.
The sentence is expected Tuesday afternoon.
In provincial court in Winnipeg on Monday, defence lawyer Rod Brecht tried to paint a picture of a family under severe stress.
Not only did this man and his wife have premature triplets to care for, they had another son who was two years old at the time, Brecht said.
The two parents took shifts caring for the boys: the father at night, and the mother during the day. Both were constantly sleep deprived, Brecht said.
The lawyer also said it was obvious the father didn’t have great parenting skills: he had heard “squeezing” babies would stop their crying, so he did that several times, resulting in the fractured bones, Brecht said.
The family’s circumstances, combined with the man’s experiences being abandoned as a child and during a 3½-month deployment in Afghanistan, help to explain his actions, Brecht said. The father was on parental leave at the time of the offences.
The court heard that a psychological report showed the man suffered with symptoms of acute stress disorder, which later developed into post-traumatic stress disorder. He also had a major depressive episode.
In police interviews, the man said, “These three babies are screaming at me 24/7. I’m frustrated all the time. I know I’m hurting them, but they all set me off sometimes.”
He thanked the officers for intervening because he might have killed them.
None of this surprises Dr. Greg Passey, a former soldier and psychiatrist from Vancouver who treats people with operational stress disorders, a group of disorders that includes PTSD.
Passey said about six per cent of all soldiers going to Afghanistan can be expected to develop PTSD — about 150 people every six months. However, he said, it’s rare for people with the disorder to commit crimes.
“We know that people with post-traumatic stress disorder have increased irritability and are much more likely to act on anger and, as a result, that type of diagnosis can certainly contribute to things such as assault, etc. But that by itself doesn’t mean that they’re not actually responsible for their actions.”
Passey said using the diagnosis of PTSD isn’t often successful as a defence, but noted it can be a factor in sentencing.
In this case, the Crown has asked for an 18-month sentence, in addition to the nine months the man has already served in custody. The defence wants him released on probation.
The psychological assessment adds that some supervised visits with his children will be central to the man’s recovery. Prohibiting contact will hurt both the man’s emotional well-being and the healthy development of his children, it said.