TORONTO (CP) - The adoptive parents of two teenage brothers beaten regularly, kept in diapers, and locked in a makeshift cage were handed prison time Thursday as the Ontario Court of Appeal set aside their original nine-month sentences.
"The sentences imposed here must clearly signal society's abhorrence and condemnation of the prolonged child abuse inflicted by the respondents," wrote Justice Eleanore Cronk in a decision that imposed a five-year term on the mother and a four-year one on the father. "Stated simply, the appalling abusive conduct of the respondents cannot be tolerated and must be met with severe sanction."
The couple - whose names cannot be published - grudgingly took custody of the two boys from their drug-addled mother in the late 1980s, and raised them in what the Crown had described as a "house of horrors" in Blackstock, Ont., an hour's drive northeast of Toronto.
The teens, now 17 and 18, were rescued from their home three years ago in a case that horrified police and child-care workers, who found one boy in a makeshift cage that was padlocked and strapped to a wall of the ramshackle two-storey farmhouse.
The Crown had sought sentences of eight years for the mother and five for the father.
In Thursday's decision, Cronk wrote that while "there is certainly merit in these proposed sentences," there were mitigating factors that influenced her decision.
Cronk cited the poor health of the couple, the fact that the trial judge found that the abuse "was not sadistic in nature," and that the couple were not a threat to the larger community.
"But for the mitigating factors I have outlined, these sentences may well have been higher," wrote Cronk.
During the trial, the Crown said that one of the cages, fashioned from a baby's crib, was found with a bucket of urine inside and little more than a sheet of plywood for a mattress. At times, one brother was even forced to sleep in a dog cage.
They were kept in diapers because they couldn't get to the washroom, subjected to rectal examinations and regularly beaten with a variety of household implements, including a soft-soled slipper and a long-handled shoe horn.
Both the mother, 43, and her husband, 51, pleaded guilty in January to two counts each of assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessaries of life.
Both boys are in separate foster care and going to high school.