A father has been found guilty of criminal negligence in the death of his four-year-old son at a Grey Highlands farm last year.
Justice Julia Morneau delivered the guilty ruling in Emanuel Bauman's case at the Ontario Court of Justice in Owen Sound on Wednesday. Sentencing was adjourned to July 23.
Bauman's four-year-old son, Steven, died on Aug. 31, 2018 in an accident at the Mennonite family's farm on 3rd Concession in Grey Highlands where he fell out of the bucket of a skid steer his father was operating and suffered a fatal head injury.
Bauman, 32, had pleaded not guilty to the charge of criminal negligence causing death back on April 12 when the trial was held.
According to Justice Morneau's written decision, Bauman was constructing a laneway on his farm the day his son died. He was using a skid steer to haul wood chips in a trailer attached to the back.
The skid steer had a bucket on the front and two of Bauman's sons, Luke and Steven, were riding in it while he worked.
While Bauman was dumping wood chips from the rear trailer, Steven fell out of the front bucket and was struck by the machine.
According to Morneau's written ruling, Bauman was looking back at the trailer as it dropped its load and did not see his son fall out.
The skid steer continued to move forward and Steven's head had been trapped under the bucket. He suffered fatal head injuries as a result.
Bauman dialed 911 and multiple emergency medical services and police arrived. Steven died later that afternoon after being airlifted to Sick Children's Hospital in Toronto.
The court heard on April 12 an expert who examined the skid steer reported it was not safe for someone to ride in the bucket. He said it was designed for one operator and in his opinion it would never be safe for children to ride in the bucket of the machine.
A video tape of a police interview with Bauman conducted by Chatsworth OPP was also shown on April 12. During the interview, Bauman acknowledged there had been many times the boys wanted a ride and he wouldn't let them because it was "way to risky".
"I knew they should not have been there," he told police.
Morneau's ruling states Bauman has always accepted full moral responsibility for his son's death, the issue was whether he was criminally responsible.
The defence argued he was not and this was a tragic accident. Bauman's counsel said he only momentarily took his eyes off his sons while doing what many farmers often do with their kids: work the family farm.
Morneau's ruling goes on to say children have ridden with their fathers on their tractors for generations. But, she says what is different in this case is a four-year-old boy was standing in a bucket, unsecured, when his father's attention was inevitably going to be drawn to his work and away from the child.
"Even if it was only a momentary look back any reasonably prudent parent would realize that a four-year-old child could fall from this bucket in seconds with devastating consequences," the ruling states." ... No reasonably prudent parent would run that risk with their child's life."
No other reported criminal law decisions in Canada were located where a child had died as a result of a farming incident, according to Morneau's written decision.