Parents sentenced after baby suffers injuries requiring force ‘similar to a car crash’

A couple have been sentenced after their three-week-old baby was found with a catalogue of horrific injuries, which doctors believe would have required force ‘similar to a car crash’. The pair were even found to have searched online for excuses to explain their child’s injuries to doctors.

The father of the child has been jailed for three and a half years after his three-week-old baby was found to have a broken ankle, a fractured collarbone, and nine broken ribs. The infant’s mother also received a prison sentence at Gloucester Crown Court on Wednesday, March 30 but it was suspended.

Sentencing the pair, reports Gloucestershire Live, the judge said he had little doubt that the baby’s injuries were caused by the father and that a force equal to the child being in a car crash had been used when they were inflicted. The couple had been found guilty by a jury at trial last month of allowing or causing a child to suffer serious physical harm in their household between June 21 and July 11, 2019.

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Judge Ian Lawrie QC told the pair: “The injuries suffered by the baby were caused by some force. I have little doubt that the father caused them. Equally, the mother was aware of how they were caused but chose to take a neglectful approach.

“The scans revealed a sequence of fractures that didn’t just occur on one occasion. They didn’t happen at birth, as the injuries would have required considerable force. One of the consultants stated graphically that the force required was that of a car crash.

“That gives an indication to the level of violence used on the baby. Very significant force was used in the ankle injury which was not sustained during normal handling of a baby.”

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The man, aged in his late 20s, received an immediate custodial term of three-and-a-half years. The mother, in her early 30s, received a prison term of 20 months, suspended for two years. She was also sentenced to 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days and ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work.

Prosecutor Richard Posner had told the jury during the trial that the baby was born in June 2019. “After scans of the baby were carried out three weeks later it was discovered it had suffered a broken collarbone, a broken ankle and nine broken ribs. Those injuries were not caused by brittle bones, disease or any other innocent explanation,” Mr Posner said.

“They were caused by at least one of the adults in the child’s life, someone who should have been providing protection and safety in an environment which would allow the child to develop as it should. The baby’s parents failed to provide that protection. At least one of them, maybe both, failed in that duty of care for the baby at a time when it was dependent on them the most.”

The jury was told that the baby’s injuries came to light on July 11, 2019, when the parents visited their GP. The child showed signs of being in severe pain because their ankle was hurting. The father and mother suggested to the doctor that their other child, a toddler 18 months old, had kicked out at the baby.

Mr Posner added “A consultant radiologist, who has specialist expertise, looked at the scans and noticed the fracture. It was a shard of bone that had come away from the ankle. The doctors called the baby’s parents back into hospital and further scans were undertaken of the child’s body. It was then that the extent of the baby’s injuries was discovered. The rib fractures were close to the spine and the collarbone was fractured.”

Mr Posner told the jury: “The baby had sustained multiple fractures. These may have occurred on one occasion or on multiple occasions. However, an injury that causes the piece of bone to come away from a baby’s ankle could have been caused by twisting, forcing, but it would have been an action that was more than what’s considered reasonable when handling a baby.

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“To break the collarbone would have meant that a single forceful blow would have to have been applied to the child’s shoulder or the grabbing of its arm.

“All of the rib fractures were close to the spine and this would have required significant force to compress its body to cause nine fractures to the ribs. The Crown suggests that significant and violent force was applied to the baby’s body to cause the fractures to which it suffered.”

Mr Posner added: “It was, the prosecution say, an ‘unstable relationship’ which manifested itself in violence and it culminated in a significant loss of control by one or both of them on at least one occasion.”

Charlotte Surley, representing the father, said he accepted that he caused the ankle injury but was unsure how the other fractures were caused. She said: “He walked out of the house in an angry state and wasn’t around the child for long periods of time. It can’t be automatically assumed that he caused the injuries to the baby.”

Sarah Jenkins, for the mother, said: “Her approach was cowardly. She searched the internet to find ways to cover up their offending.” The judge interjected: “She knew her baby had been injured and was engineering excuses.”

Ms Jenkins continued: “The mother believes that the baby received its injuries while she was out of the home. She was clinging onto the relationship to maintain a family home. She had her own reservations about her partner’s behaviour towards the baby, but with hindsight, she was not alert to it.

“She has since come to recognise her own failing and has taken steps to rectify the situation and has accessed appropriate counselling. She is wholly remorseful. She has not underplayed her role in this sorry situation she finds herself in. She is fighting to stay in contact with her children.”

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Judge Lawrie said to both parents: “The baby suffered from a sequence of acts of violence by its parents who had the obligation of love and protection towards their very young child – an obligation you both failed to deliver. You both lied to the medical profession and turned to the internet to research ‘abuse’ to cover up your tracks. You were trying to make yourselves familiar with your legal position and came up with a wealth of excuses like the suggestion of an accident.

The judge told the father: “Your offence is so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified.” The judge then told the woman “You failed as a mother. You knew what happened. But for whatever reason, you chose to hide the child’s injuries from the doctors.

“You displayed all the hallmarks of domestic violence, but still failed as a mother. Your offending merits custody. But I have been made aware of the efforts you have shown to learn the lessons of your failings and the wish not to repeat your mistakes. You have a lot of lessons to learn.

“Therefore there is a prospect of rehabilitation so I can suspend your prison term of 20 months for two years. Additionally, you will attend 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days and undertake 200 hours of unpaid work.

“While you are doing this you can reflect upon your failings and the harm you have caused. I suggest you choose your partners with better care in future.”

“This case isn’t about what happened to the child but the harm it suffered. It has to be judged in context of a relationship that clearly demonstrated that the mother was suffering from post-natal stress. This was an already toxic relationship. I saw the text messages between you. It was a relationship with considerable tension between the two parents. There were rare loving moments, but mostly it was offensive and often threatening. It was a fraught household.

“You, the father, are primarily responsible for the injuries. You, the mother, had a lesser role. You were both in a toxic relationship together and neither of you did anything to improve the situation. The woman was trying to cling to the wreckage of this rather fractured relationship.

“If ever there was a child needing protection it was this baby, just three weeks old. Whatever the stresses in your life you both failed to provide the care needed to look after your child. You would have known your obligations to a child over its protection as the baby had an elder brother.”

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