October 2008

Baby killer given life sentence

A father who murdered his baby daughter by snapping her spine will spend at least 22 years in prison.

James Howson, 25, was given a life sentence at Leeds Crown Court for the murder of 16-month-old Amy at their home in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

He was convicted of murder on Tuesday after a jury heard he held Amy over his knee and broke her back in two.

Amy’s mother Tina Hunt, 26, was given a 12-month suspended sentence after admitting child cruelty.

Sentencing Howson, the judge, Mrs Justice Cox, said: “This was, in my view, a chilling and brutal attack.

“The bone was completely dislocated, resulting in spinal shock, rapid unconsciousness – mercifully – and to death.”

‘Truly horrific’

During the trial Howson blamed Ms Hunt, saying she may have been responsible for Amy’s death.

But the judge said: “The jury was satisfied, on the clearest of evidence, that it was you who deliberately inflicted truly horrific injuries upon your defenceless little daughter, Amy, from which she died within a few hours.”

The judge also detailed other occasions in the weeks leading up to the murder in December last year when Howson “cruelly and deliberately assaulted Amy”, leaving her with multiple fractures to her arms and legs.

The court heard how Howson had a troubled history and had been violent towards women when he was young, yet he had no previous convictions.

Howson showed no emotion as he was led from the dock.

The judge said to him: “I have not seen the slightest evidence of remorse from you for what you did.”

Hunt’s 12-month sentence was suspended for two years.

She admitted the child cruelty charge on the basis that she did nothing to alert the authorities to her daughter’s plight.

But the judge said: “Your level of culpability falls at the lowest end of the scale”, after hearing how Howson completely dominated her and was often violent.

She said Hunt was also in the lowest 1% band of intelligence.

Outside court Amy’s grandfather, Colin Hunt, said: “Life should mean life but what can you say? That’s justice for you.

“Twenty-two years is all right but it won’t bring Amy back, will it?

“I have 16 grandchildren. They are all beautiful and he’s taken one away. I idolise them.

“I’m very angry. If I could have done something I would have. She was my granddaughter.”