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ROSE VALLEY, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - The father of two young girls who froze to death because of his heavy drinking was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday by a Canadian judge, who rejected the recommendation of a traditional Indian sentencing circle that he serve no time.
Saskatchewan Provincial Court Judge Barry Morgan said he believes Christopher Pauchay is remorseful about causing the deaths of his daughters. But he noted that Pauchay, 25, has a lengthy criminal record and has done little over the years to control his drinking.
"The fact remains that two defenseless young victims lost their lives as a direct consequence of his reckless behavior," Morgan said, sitting at a folding table in the small town's community hall, which was doubling as a courtroom.
Pauchay had been trying to walk to a neighbor's home in January 2008 with his daughters Santana and Kaydence, aged 1 and 3, on a night of almost blizzard-like conditions.
Temperatures on the Yellow Quill Indian reserve, in the western province of Saskatchewan, dipped below -35 degrees Celsius (-31 degrees Fahrenheit) and the toddlers were wearing only diapers and light shirts.
Hours later, a neighbor found Pauchay on her doorstep, reeking of alcohol and suffering from frostbite and hypothermia. The girls were later discovered frozen to death in the snow.
Pauchay pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. He was sentenced to three years in jail, less two months credit for time already spent in custody.
In sending Pauchay to prison, Morgan rejected the recommendation of an Indian sentencing circle that he serve no jail time. The circle, made up of community and family members, is a traditional way of bringing consensus to an offender's fate.
Prosecutor Marylynne Beaton said it was more important to deter such crimes than to reform Pauchay.
"(The sentence) sends an important message to all individuals who look after children that they have to ... look after their children."
Editing by Rob Wilson