Febuary 2006

No prison for baby death cruelty

A young couple whose baby died after suffering multipleinjuries and neglect have avoided being sent to jail.

At Cardiff Crown Court Ceri Thomas, 21, of Bridgend, and Sarah Scott, 19, of Cardiff, admitted cruelty to four-month-old Chloe.

When she died in 2003, her skull, wrists, ribs and legs were fractured.

Thomas was jailed for three months, but had already served that time on remand. Scott was given a three-year community rehabilitation order.

The court heard how Thomas and Scott – who gave their daughter tea and water instead of milk – refused to co-operate with social services and had kept their child in “grubby and untidy conditions”.

Peter Murphy QC, prosecuting, said: “Chloe was a battered and neglected child.

“They failed to take her to baby clinics, would not sterilise her bottles and would not communicate with professionals.

“Chloe was a normal healthy baby who needed care and nurture. Sadly this was not forthcoming.”

The court was told that in the weeks before her death, Chloe was admitted to hospital with bruising, underweight and in obvious distress.

Doctors were extremely concerned by Chloe’s physical state and by her parents’ lack of co-operation, Mr Murphy said.

“Chloe was discharged but readmitted to hospital weeks later with breathing difficulties,” he added.

She was admitted to the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, on 2 April, 2003 with injuries including a fractured skull and breaks to all her limbs. She died nine days later.

“It is impossible to say how these injuries were sustained. They might have been inflicted by a third party,” Mr Murphy added.

“There is no evidence against Thomas or Scott to suggest they murdered Chloe.”

Thomas, the court heard, had been adopted as a young child and Scott was the only child of five siblings not to be taken into care.

John Charles Rees, defending Thomas, said: “He did not cause her death. He did not assault her. He was reckless rather than deliberate.

“Both he and Scott mistrusted social services and were misguided by youth and immaturity.

“All the injuries could have been inflicted in one single incident.

“The prosecution cannot say who that could have been. It may have been a third party.”

Ian Murphy, defending Scott, told the court that she was only 15 when she became pregnant.

“She lacked experiences needed to have a deeper understanding of how to bring up children,” he added.

Judge Mr Justice Jack told Scott: “You were only 15 when Chloe was conceived. You had a difficult childhood and were kept back from school to look after your siblings.

“You were most ill-equipped to become a mother. This explains but does not excuse your actions. But sending you to prison would be completely wrong.”

He told Thomas that he had to do far more to look after Chloe than he would have done if Scott had been a better mother.

In a previous hearing at Swansea Crown Court, the prosecution had asked for the sentencing to take place at a more secure court because of the possible reaction of relatives and members of the public.

After the hearing, Bridgend Council issued a statement describing it as a “very sad case”.