August 2019: Now living in Derby

June 2014

Bristol hairdresser jailed after baby died in his care


A Filton man has been jailed after a four-month-old baby left in his care died.

Bristol Crown Court heard that James Brown wrapped a blanket around Layla Rix-Palmer’s face while he was supposed to be looking after her.

She stopped breathing and paramedics were unable to revive her.

He had previously dropped or allowed the baby to fall and pulled her out of her cot by one arm.

But the court heard that a post-mortem examination had not been able to ascertain the actual cause of death.

And when prosecutors approached expert Peter Fleming, Professor of infant health at Bristol University, he had told them that although the wrap around Layla’s face increased the risk of death, he could not be sure it was the substantial cause.

Advice was given to the police and Crown Prosecution Service that the case was not appropriate for a manslaughter charge and instead Brown, a 36-year-old hairdresser of Gloucester Road North, was charged with child cruelty.

He admitted the charge and Layla’s death was viewed as an “aggravating factor” when he was sentenced to four years in jail.

Brown held his head in his hands as he was sentenced.

Judge Graham Cottle told him: “You dropped or allowed her to fall.

“You pulled her out of her cot by one arm in a completely inappropriate way, risking serious injury.

“On one occasion she was covered in horrible blisters. The pain that must have caused that little baby can only be imagined.

“Then there was the final act. You wrapped her tightly in a blanket, and pulled the blanket tight over her head.”

Fiona Elder, prosecuting, said Layla was born on July 17, 2012 and died on November 14 of that year.

Miss Elder said: “At just short of four months old, she was a particularly vulnerable person.”

The court heard Brown minded Layla from the age of two months but in October, the baby had sustained an injury when she fell off a bed, bruising her head.

Miss Elder said: “It was relatively superficial and no medical attention was sought. By his plea he accepts that placing her on that bed and his inattentiveness to her was neglect.”

The baby’s mother, Brown’s then girlfriend, also saw him lift Layla by one arm and swing her into to his body, the court heard, and although she told him not to do it he continued to do so.

On one occasion he admitted dropping her and said she hit her head on a coffee table.

Miss Elder said: “The mum found an egg-sized lump on her daughter’s head. They went to the minor injuries unit and there was no significant damage.”

Brown also admitted popping blisters on the baby’s head, which he said were caused by her having a reaction to her pillow.

On November 14, 2012, the baby stopped breathing and her heart stopped.

Brown said the baby was wrapped in a blanket, around her face and was heard to say: “It’s all my fault she died.”

She told the court: “The most likely cause of death was the way she was wrapped, asphyxiation and the ingesting of vomit.”

Brown minimised his involvement when police interviewed him, saying he had worked in a children’s nursery and had two young children of his own.

He had a caution for common assault in a domestic setting.