Supreme Court of Canada agrees to hear case of B.C. babysitter in toddler’s death

The Supreme Court of Canada is seen, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 in Ottawa.

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case of a British Columbia woman whose conviction in the drowning death of a toddler was quashed earlier this year.

Documents show that the court has granted the application for leave to hear the case of Tammy Bouvette, whose criminal negligence charge was thrown out by the B.C. Court of Appeal in April.

Bouvette’s lawyer is seeking an acquittal in the case rather than the Appeal Court’s order for a stay of proceedings as remedy.

An acquittal declares a defendant has been found not guilty by the court, while a stay means the Crown has dropped its charges but does not determine guilt or innocence.

Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge in 2011 for the bathtub drowning death of a 19-month-old girl she had been babysitting in Cranbrook, B.C.

The B.C. Court of Appeal found the Crown failed to disclose several items of key evidence to Bouvette’s lawyers, depriving her of the “opportunity to make an informed decision about how to plead.”

The Appeal Court ruling called the original conviction “the product of a miscarriage of justice” despite not finding bad faith or malice in the Crown’s failure to share the evidence.

In explaining its order for the stay, the Appeal Court said to retry Bouvette’s case would be “unjust.”

“It would amount to punishing the appellant again for succeeding in having her guilty plea and conviction quashed,” the decision said, noting Bouvette had already served her whole sentence for criminal negligence.

The Appeal Court also said Bouvette relapsed in her battle with addiction after being charged, losing custody of her children while getting assaulted in jail for being perceived as a “baby killer.”

Bouvette was babysitting Iyanna Teeple when the toddler was found unconscious and not breathing in a bathtub. The child was flown to a Calgary hospital but later died.

In 2021, a special prosecutor from the BC Prosecution Service found that there may have been a miscarriage of justice since there was a strong case that Bouvette did not receive disclosure of significant and relevant materials.

The review found that Bouvette’s Charter rights may have been breached, eventually leading to the quashing of the conviction.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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