Charges against two guardians of a four-year-old girl known as Serenity have been stayed.
The man and woman were jointly charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life and ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing in Wetaskiwin in March. The charges do not relate to Serenity’s death in 2014.
Alberta Justice said evidence called at the preliminary hearing led to a reassessment of the case by Crown prosecutors.
“Following that reassessment and consideration by senior officials within the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS), the Crown determined the matter no longer meets the prosecution standard of ‘reasonable likelihood of conviction,'” Eric Tolppanen, assistant deputy minister of the ACPS, said in a statement.
The Crown entered a stay of proceedings on Tuesday.
“A key duty of a Crown prosecutor is to assess cases on an ongoing basis and ensure all aspects of the evidence are carefully considered at every stage of a prosecution,” Tolppanen explained.
“In general, Crown consideration of a case continues to evolve after the initial decision is made to lay charges, and Crown prosecutors continue to evaluate the evidence in light of the prosecution standard of ‘reasonable likelihood of conviction.’
“This can result in changes being made to the initial charges, such as charges being added, upgraded, stayed and/or withdrawn.”
READ MORE: Serenity’s caregivers face criminal charges
The child died in 2014 after being taken to hospital with a head injury. A report by Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate said doctors noted Serenity had bruises at various stages of healing and was “significantly underweight.”
No family members in this case can be named in order to protect the identity of Serenity’s two living siblings.
Serenity and her siblings had been living with family members designated through the kinship care program and later given permanent guardianship.
Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said Tuesday the United Conservative government was not involved in the decision to stay the charges.
“This is an agonizing case,” Schweitzer said in a statement.
“The decision to stay the prosecution was taken independently by the Crown attorneys without any involvement by elected officials.”
Schweitzer said that the Crown has one year to potentially reinstate the charges and that there is a pending fatality inquiry.
“The Crown must assess a case on an ongoing basis in light of the prosecution standard of ‘reasonable likelihood of conviction.'”
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