Ontario man receives suspended sentence for accidental death of son on family farm

An Ontario farmer who was found guilty of criminal negligence in the accidental death of his four-year-old son on their farm nearly a year ago has been given a suspended sentence with three years probation.

“A jail sentencewould compound the family’s grief,” said Justice Julia Morneauof the Ontario Court of Justice as she sentenced Emanuel Bauman at the Owen Sound Courthouse on Thursday afternoon.

Bauman was also sentenced to a 10-year driving prohibition and 240 hours of community service, some of which Morneau hoped he would use to talk to others about farm safety.

His lawyer Douglas Grace said while he believed his client was happy with the sentence, he still is”serving a life sentence of grief and remorse.

“It will never leave him. It will never leave his family,” Grace said. “I can’t imagine what he must be going throughemotionally.”

While Morneau acknowledged that Bauman’s behaviour was reckless and the consequences of his actionsforeseeable, his conductwas at the “lowest end of the spectrum of deliberate endangerment.”

A jail sentence, in what is believed to be a precedent-setting case,would also mean that his “children would be without their father and his wife without his support,” Morneau said.

Father paid ‘ultimate price’

“This is a rare event,” Morneau said about the accident.

She was satisfied Baumanwould not reoffend, has learned from his behaviour, and that, in the loss of his son, “there is no more ultimate price than that.”

Bauman, of the Ontario municipality of Grey Highlands, was charged last year with criminal negligence causing death when his son Steven died after falling out of a skid steer bucket. In May, Morneau found him guilty of the charge.

The Crown hadrecommendeda sentence of two years less a day, three years probation and a driving prohibition of 10 years. But Bauman’s lawyer hadargued for a suspended sentence with two or three years of probation, along withconditions such as speaking to others in the community about farm safety.

In her written decision in May, Morneaunoted she, the Crown attorney and Bauman’s lawyer couldn’t find any similar cases in criminal law involving a child dying in a farm accident.

Boy died of head injuries

On Aug. 30, 2018, Bauman, then 32, was building a laneway on his property in Grey Highlands, a rural farming area about 110 kilometres northwest of Toronto.

Bauman was using a skid steer, an engine-powered machine, to pull a trailer full of wood chips. The chips would land in the lanewayas it moved, and Steven and his brother Luke, 7,were standing in the skid steer’sfront-end bucket.

At some point, as Bauman’s attention was diverted while looking back, Steven fell out of the bucket.

Bauman’s lawyer Douglas Grace said while he believed his client was happy with the sentence, he still is’serving a life sentence of grief and remorse.’ (Robert Krbavac/CBC

Bauman found the childon the ground, his head trapped under the bucket. He immediately called emergency services.

Steven died from head injuries and his father was charged. Although he pleaded not guilty, heconceded to everything in the Crown disclosure.

Baumanaccepted moral responsibility

Morneau stated in herMay decision that Bauman has always accepted full moral responsibility,but the question waswhether he was criminally responsible for his son’s death.

It’s believed to be the only case in Canada where a child’s accidental death on a farm led to a criminal charge.

His lawyer, Douglas Grace,argued Bauman shouldn’t face criminal liabilityand itwas a tragic accident. But Crown attorney Peter Leger said Baumanwascriminally liablejust by having allowedSteven to be in such a dangerous situation.

An expert reported to the court that it would never be safe for children to ride in the bucket of a skid steer.

Bauman himself told policehe knew his sons shouldn’t have been in the bucket.

Morneau, in her decision in May,acknowledged farmers have, for generations,not necessarily made safety a priority.

But Morneauhadsaid this case is different andBauman must have known his attention, at times, would be diverted from the children.

‘Completely foreseeable’

However, community members have spoken out, saying they felt the law had gone too far in charging and convicting Bauman, and he had suffered enough with the death of his son.

The Ontario home of Emanuel Bauman, where his son Steven was killed last year in a farming accident. Bauman was charged and convicted of criminal negligence in what is believed to be a landmark decision. (Robert Krbavac/CBC

Morneau cited the pre-sentencing report, which she said was “unreservedly positive” about Bauman/

She also said Bauman had made positivechanges around the farm since the death of his son that have resulted inenhancements for child safety. As well,other members of his community have takenmeasures to improve safety on their farmsas a result of the tragedy, she said.

Despite the suspended sentence, Grace suggested they may look at appealing the criminal negligence verdict.

“That would depend on Mr.Bauman and me meeting and decidingwhether it was anappropriatecourse to take.”

Criminal lawyerLisa Jorgensontold CBC News that she believed the sentence was “a restrained, compassionate and appropriate decision.”

“It is good to show restraint, particularly when parents make horrible mistakes, and in this case, mistakes found to be criminal. But holding them to jail time feels harsh and punitive.”