BC carer sentenced to death for woman with Down syndrome

A woman found guilty of failing to provide for the necessities of life, the crime that resulted in the death of a 54-year-old woman with Down syndrome in care, will not serve any time behind bars.

Instead, BC Supreme Court Justice David Crossin gave carer Astrid Dahl, also 54, a conditional sentence to be served in the community, which included a year of curfew and a year of probation. and 100 hours of community service.

During the trial, the court found Florence Girard weighed just 50 pounds when she died at Dahl’s home in 2018 – and hadn’t seen a doctor in the previous four years.

“People in home care need to be on the lookout for the people they love, because obviously if they’re being cared for it doesn’t matter to the government or the courts. I’m just heartbroken.” Sharon Bursey, Girard’s sister.

Crown requested a sentence of 18 to 36 months, but Crossin disagreed with that recommendation.

“The paralysis of judgment here seems isolated,” he said before sentencing.

At trial, Dahl was found guilty of failing to provide for the necessities of life, but not guilty of negligence causing death.

While testifying in his own defense, Dahl told the court that Girard disliked going to medical appointments and began to show little interest in eating.

“Flo is very loud when she doesn’t want something and she doesn’t like something,” she said.

When asked in court why she didn’t call an ambulance for Girard while she was languishing in the weeks and months leading up to her death, Dahl said it wasn’t “she wanted that moment for herself.” “.

Gasps and sobs could be heard in the courtroom from members of the Girard family as Crossin announced the conditional sentence.

“I am disappointed in the whole thing. Bursey says it should last at least 12 months. “There’s no incentive for anyone to make any difference.”

Tamara Taggart, president of Down Syndrome BC, has a teenage son with Down syndrome and has been on trial to support Girard’s family.

“These people get paid. This is their job. This is their responsibility. So you trust that they will provide the necessities of life,” says Taggart. “That didn’t happen with Florence. She starved to death. That’s what happened to her which was absolutely horrible.”

She said the judge’s decision not to send Dahl to prison should be alarming for families who rely on carers to care for their loved ones.

“It’s every parent’s nightmare, every sibling’s nightmare, that this would happen to someone they know, care about and love,” she said.

Outside the court, Bursey remembers her sister for her sense of humor and playfulness.

“She is so funny. To me, she’s happy,” she said. “With others, she can be grumpy. I miss her so much.”

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