June 2013

Father who shook baby daughter jailed for manslaughter

Benjamin Curtis

A father who violently shook his baby daughter leaving her with severe brain damage which contributed to her death has been jailed for two years after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Ocean Elliot was just three and half months old when Benjamin Curtis “lost control” and caused the significant injuries which left his daughter functionally blind and suffering from severe seizures.

She died just over two years later having contracted swine flu following a number of complications caused by the injuries inflicted by Curtis.

Ocean was forced to spend long periods in hospital and despite the fact the assault had taken place two years earlier, a court heard that the injuries she suffered were “a significant contributory factor” in the cause of her death.

Curtis, 30, from Mallard Close, Eastbourne was due to stand trial for manslaughter but changed his plea to guilty at Guildford Crown Court today.

The court heard that Ocean had been left in his care at an address in Sheerwater, Woking on the night of 2 April 2007.

Curtis called on a neighbour that night claiming his daughter had started shaking and shivering when he went to change her nappy. He called for an ambulance and later told doctors that Ocean had bumped her head on the side of her cot.

However later medical examinations concluded that the injuries she had suffered were as a result of head trauma caused by shaking. Curtis was arrested and at first denied causing Ocean any harm. However he eventually admitted to detectives that he “lost control momentarily” and shook her four or five times back and forth.

He was previously jailed for 20 months in April 2008 after admitting assault occasioning GBH.

After her health deteriorated, Ocean died on 18 August 2009 at St Thomas’ Hospital, London aged two years and eight months.

Curtis was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in November 2009 and following medical reports and advice was charged in September 2012.

Following today’s hearing Detective Chief Inspector Juliet Parker said: “The actions of Curtis that night left a young baby with terrible injuries from which she never recovered.

“Ocean was a healthy and vibrant young baby but the consequences of the violent shaking that Curtis subjected her to left her suffering from severe ill-health for the rest of her young life.

“This has been a difficult, complex and tragic case and has taken some time to get to today’s hearing. I hope that the outcome can bring about some justice for Ocean and closure for her family.”

The judge told Curtis: ‘Like most babies, she cried. You picked her up and shook her four or five times. You may have been tired. You may have been uncertain as to how to placate Ocean.

‘You may have been cross with your partner. But none of that is any excuse whatsoever for your loss of temper and mistreatment of that baby. The results were catastrophic.’

He added: ‘Consequences matter and when the consequences become the more serious they can lead, as in your case, to more serious charges.’

The judge said that if Curtis had contested the present charge, he would have given him three years, but because of Curtis’s plea of guilty, he would reduce it to two.

Ms Glynn had told the court that Ocean’s mother had started her relationship with Curtis in 2005, and there was disharmony, with each adult enduring violence from the other. The mother had signed an agreement with social services that she would not leave her daughter on her own with Curtis. But she did not comply with this, including on the evening of the assault. She left the address where they were living in Woking, Surrey, to go to bingo with a friend.

Ocean’s mother said: ’Where is the justice? Two years isn’t long enough, what will he serve, a year of that? I would have preferred five years’