Globe and Mail

Babysitter captured on 'nannycam' avoids jail

INGRID PERITZ
Quebec Bureau
The Globe and Mail
Friday, November 12, 1999

Montreal -- A babysitter caught on videotape whacking and kicking a 2˝-year-old boy in her care will not go to jail, ending a legal saga that highlighted parents' growing use of "nannycams" to spy on their caregivers.

Nathalie Beaudin, 32, pleaded guilty to simple assault after a camera captured her roughing up the boy in his home in Sainte-Julie on Montreal's South Shore last year.

The Crown wanted Ms. Beaudin to go to prison, but Quebec Court Judge Lucien Roy yesterday ordered her three-month sentence to be served at home.

"We're shocked," said Patrick Laprade, the father of 2˝-year-old Kevin and his 3˝-year-old brother, Jonathan, left in Ms. Beaudin's care.

"This isn't a sentence at all . . . when someone beats a little baby and manages to remain free."

Annabelle Dubé, the boys' mother, also said she thought the sitter deserved jail.

"It's serious, what she did to my children," she said.

Mr. Laprade and Ms. Dubé decided to install a video camera in their home because they were concerned that Ms. Beaudin was not paying enough attention to their children. They set the machine on top of the living room TV and told the sitter it was broken.

But the tape kept rolling while the parents went out.

The scenes it captured shocked the couple. Ms. Beaudin is seen violently slapping Kevin on the stomach while he's on the couch. The child wails in pain.

Ms. Beaudin then grabs the boy by the jaw, prompting the toddler to yell while covering his face with his hands. Later, when he tries to calmly sit next to her, Ms. Beaudin kicks him away so she can stretch out to watch TV.

When the parents viewed the tape, they immediately called police. The babysitter, a neighbour of theirs with 15 years babysitting experience, denied harming the children until police confronted her with the videotape.

Judge Roy called Ms. Beaudin's acts reprehensible, but noted that she had been depressed at the time over the breakup of her parents' marriage and she had attempted suicide three times.

As part of her sentence, Ms. Beaudin will have to perform 40 hours of community work, stay away from children and maintain a 9 p.m. curfew. Judge Roy said he decided against a jail sentence because Ms. Beaudin had no previous record and posed no public risk.

"The acts she committed were serious," he said in an interview. "But she's not a danger to the community. She's someone who needs help right now."

Defence lawyer Nancy Delorme expressed satisfaction at the sentence.

"I think the judge recognized that it's not just a matter of punishing the accused, but of seeking another solution aimed at rehabilitation," she said.

The case is believed to be the first in Quebec to rely on secret home videotape, and excerpts have been shown repeatedly on local television. In the United States, the use of hidden in-home surveillance cameras is mushrooming as parents seek peace of mind by watching over the people who are watching over their children.

Judge Roy said the case was unusual because it showed "a crime being committed from A to Z" in somebody's home.

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